Hamilton leads solo Imola GP practice

Steven Tee/Motorsport Images

Hamilton leads solo Imola GP practice

Formula 1

Hamilton leads solo Imola GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton positioned himself for pole at Imola for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix after topping the weekend’s only practice session.

Hamilton, Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen traded times at the top of the time sheet through the middle part of the 90-second session until the Briton set his final benchmark before embarking on race simulation runs. His best effort of 1m14.726s was 0.297s quicker than Verstappen’s fastest time, with Bottas 0.492s off the pace.

Both Mercedes drivers set their best times on their second push laps on the soft tire, whereas Verstappen was balked by traffic on his second flier. The Dutchman in any case complained his front softs were struggling to maintain peak grip.

Formula 1’s first visit to the historic Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola since 2006 is being run with a novel two-day format comprising only one practice session before qualifying later today and the race on Sunday.

The circuit was accordingly busy throughout the 90 minutes, with teams and drivers eager to maximize their data-gathering and approximate a setup before the start of parc ferme conditions only 150 minutes after the end of the session.

Drivers struggled particularly with track limits at the exits of Turn 9, Piratella, and Turn 15, Variante Alta, with the race control messages board dominated by notices of lap deletions for exceeding the circuit boundary. The sheer number of cancelled laps warped the time sheet’s representativeness for assessing single-lap pace.

Pierre Gasly, freshly confirmed at AlphaTauri for 2021, was fourth fastest, having flirted with top spot early in the session when the track was still cool and green. The Frenchman was 0.907s off the pace and just 0.055s quicker than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who logged his best last as the checkered flag flew.

Renault teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon followed, 1.1s and 1.2s respectively off the pace, and Daniil Kvyat validated AlphaTauri’s strong pace with eighth, 0.3s slower than teammate Gasly.

Alex Albon, fighting this weekend to keep his Red Bull Racing drive for 2021, was ninth quickest for Red Bull Racing and more than a second slower than teammate Verstappen. The Thai driver struggled to find balance, complaining of oversteer early in the session and understeer late, with tire temperatures seemingly key to his difficulties.

Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez followed in 10th and 11th ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who spent most of the session at the foot of the time sheet before a late lap brought him up to 12th and 1.4s off the pace.

A further 0.4s back was Haas driver Romain Grosjean. McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were 14th and 16th after having laps deleted, the pair split by Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi.

Kimi Raikkonen was 13th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Williams driver George Russell and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.

Nicholas Latifi was last for Williams after losing time to a brake by wire problem.

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