SILVERSTONE: Valtteri Bottas outpaced world championship-leading Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton as the two ‘black arrows’ topped the times in Friday’s opening free practice for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
The Finn, who won the season-opening race in Austria, clocked a best lap in 1min 26.166sec to beat the six-time world champion by one-tenth on a hot day with rising temperatures in central England.
It was the first time this season that Bottas had topped a Friday session.
Five days after his dramatic British Grand Prix win on three good wheels and one that was punctured on this circuit, Hamilton and his team closely monitored blistering on the softer compound rubber introduced this weekend.
Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in the leading controversial ‘pink Mercedes’ of the Racing Point team, the German driver again standing in for Sergio Perez who tested positive again for coronavirus late Thursday.
Racing Point went into the session after learning that Renault had won a protest against their cars’ legality and originality. They were docked 15 points and fined €400,000 (RM1.98 million) following a lengthy stewards’ inquiry into a specific complaint against their brake ducts.
In temperatures above 30°C, Charles Leclerc was fifth for Ferrari ahead of Alex Albon in the second Red Bull and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari with Lance Stroll in the second Racing Point eighth. Stroll was six-tenths adrift of the impressive Hulkenberg.
Daniil Kvyat was ninth for Alpha Tauri and Esteban Ocon tenth for Renault.
Lando Norris of McLaren exemplified the drivers’ problems with the softer tyres when he reported in on team radio, saying: “Getting quite a few vibrations from the rear tyres, some big, big blisters.” When he pitted, big chunks of rubber were hanging from his rear tyres.
Norris was 12th behind Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri who also reported “no rubber left” on one of his tyres.
“This soft tyre is not a race tyre,” said former world champion Jenson Button on Sky Sports F1.
Hamilton leads the drivers’ standings after four races of a season severely affected by coronavirus. – AFP