Lewis Hamilton has started the Turkish Grand Prix with the fastest time of first practice, but Mercedes confirmed the Briton will serve a grid penalty for a new engine part.
Formula 1 is enjoying substantially better conditions on its return to Istanbul, with warmer weather and a grippier track banishing memories of last year’s drizzly conditions and greasy surface.
The improvement in the circuit has been immediately obvious. Hamilton’s best lap of first practice, a 1m24.178s, was more than four seconds quicker than the fastest time set at any point this time last year.
Hamilton’s session was about more than just pure performance, with the Briton running a brand-new internal combustion engine. Mercedes has suspected for several weeks that he would need a fourth motor to ensure reliability for the rest of the season, although at this stage the team has opted to change just one part rather than install an entire new power unit.
The title leader will therefore take a 10-place penalty rather than being sent to the back of the grid.
Max Verstappen, running in a one-off white Honda tribute livery, was 0.425s off the pace. The Dutchman complained of understeer through the session, though he attributed the problem to the tires rather than his setup.
The soft-compound tire, by far the most used through the hour, was being punished by the newly abrasive track surface and was thoroughly worn after relatively short stints. It’s therefore unlikely to feature much in a dry race, and with the forecast calling for a high chance of rain for qualifying, most drivers burnt through two sets of the red rubber with abandon in the opening session.
Charles Leclerc was third for Ferrari and just 0.051s behind Leclerc, with Valtteri Bottas following another 0.2 off the pace.
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Carlos Sainz was fifth, but the Ferrari driver was running a brand-new power unit during the session, confirming himself for a back-of-grid start on Sunday.
Esteban Ocon was impressive for Alpine in sixth. The Frenchman was 0.731s off the headline pace but set his best time on the hard compound.
Lando Norris followed in seventh ahead of Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso, with Sergio Perez completing the top 10 for Red Bull Racing.
George Russell was 11th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian using the medium tire for his best lap, which was 1.5s off the pace. Sebastian Vettel headed Antonio Giovinazzi, Nicholas Latifi and Kimi Raikkonen.
Lance Stroll, pole-getter here last season, was more than two seconds adrift in 17th ahead of Yuki Tsunoda and Haas teammates Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.