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Motor racing-Verstappen fastest at Silverstone as the 'Hulk' returns

31 Jul 2020 / 20:03 H.

    By Alan Baldwin

    SILVERSTONE, England, July 31 (Reuters) - Red Bull's Max Verstappen was fastest in first practice for the British Grand Prix on Friday while Nico Hulkenberg looked like he'd never been away after stepping in as Sergio Perez's replacement at Racing Point.

    On a hot and sunny day at Silverstone that was as crowdless as it was cloudless, with Sunday's race the latest to be held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Verstappen lapped with a best time of one minute 27.422 seconds.

    Mercedes' six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will be chasing a record seventh home win, was second fastest, 0.474 off the pace but using slower medium tyres than the Dutchman's softs.

    Hamilton leads Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, sixth fastest on the hard tyre, in the standings by five points after three races.

    Racing Point's Canadian Lance Stroll was third on the timesheets with Red Bull's Alexander Albon fourth and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fifth.

    Leclerc's team mate Sebastian Vettel was sidelined for most of the session after Ferrari detected something wrong with his car's intercooler system and decided to strip it down to be ready for the second session.

    Hulkenberg was the 'new' name on the screens, the experienced driver walking back into the paddock 10 minutes before the start of the session to take over the Mexican's 'Pink Mercedes'.

    Perez was ruled out by a positive COVID-19 test on Thursday and is self-isolating.

    The German acquitted himself well, setting the ninth best time despite some discomfort from the seat.

    Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi brought out red flags at the half hour mark after spinning at the exit to Becketts, leaving debris across the track. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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