Valtteri Bottas beat Max Verstappen to the top spot in first practice at the Portuguese Grand Prix.
The Finn, who is 28 points off the championship lead thanks to his retirement from the previous race in Imola, bolted on a set of soft tires onto his Mercedes in the second half of the session to rocket to the top of the time sheet.
Red Bull Racing’s Verstappen was next best with just a 0.025s deficit despite the Dutchman complaining of severe vibrations on his soft tires. He was offered the chance to return to the garage but chose instead to set a single flying lap before withdrawing from the run. “I’ll just visit the dentist after the weekend,” he replied before coming close to toppling Bottas from the head of the time sheet.
Max had a gnashing time in FP1 😂#PortugueseGP 🇵🇹 #F1 pic.twitter.com/bKxzNCBsgZ
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 30, 2021
Sergio Perez followed in third and 0.198s off the pace, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was an impressive 0.236 adrift in fourth.
The Algarve International Circuit was resurfaced late last year before the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix, and although the surface has matured significantly compared to the slick and oily track presented to drivers last season, grip was still difficult to come by in the cool midday weather.
Pirelli has brought its most conservative trio of tires to the track, and the hard compound required substantial working in, with some drivers reported needing almost 10 laps to get the best from it.
Lewis Hamilton even struggled for purchase on his set of softs despite running them late in the session. The championship leader had trouble managing tire temperature from the get-go, complaining of an “undriveable” car and suffering graining on his soft fronts on his way to fifth in the order and 0.319s behind his session-leading teammate.
Pierre Gasly was sixth for AlphaTauri but almost 0.8s behind the benchmark. George Russell — rebounding from the crash that took him and Bottas out of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix two weeks ago — was seventh in the order.
Lando Norris was quickest for McLaren in eighth at 0.987s off the pace ahead of Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo followed outside the top 10. Yuki Tsunoda was 13th for AlphaTauri ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine.
Kimi Raikkonen was 15th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin. Callum Ilott followed, the newly minted Alfa Romeo reserve driver taking part in his first official F1 session to return 17th and 2.1s off the pace, though he was less than 0.4s behind Raikkonen.
Mick Schumacher was 18th for Haas ahead of Nicholas Latifi’s Williams and last-placed teammate Nikita Mazepin.