Max Verstappen led a Red Bull 1-2 in Turkey as Lewis Hamilton spent only 20 minutes on the track – his Mercedes underwent a massive set-up change.
Formula 1 took to the Istanbul Park circuit for the first time in nine years on Friday morning, the last year race meaning conditions were cooler than past year’s Turkish outings. The track temperature was a mere 17’C at the beginning of FP1.
To add to the tricky conditions awaiting the drivers, the track was washed overnight and again in the morning leaving behind a slippery track and a few wet spots. “It’s like driving on ice” was Max Verstappen’s assessment on his first lap out on the hard tyres.
While he said that birthday boy Lando Norris skated off the track, thankfully onto a run-off area. “You can’t even go flat-out on the straight,” he told McLaren.
Charles Leclerc was in on the early session drama as he slipped and slid, taking out a bollard on his way. His team-mate Sebastian Vettel did a 2:01.1 to get the timesheet rolling.
Leclerc’s bollard, which marked the pit lane entry, brought out the red flags as a marshal had to cross the track to retrieve it. The bollard had also left exposed bolts, which could cause a tyre failure. And all that within six minutes!
The first practice session at @intercitypark isn't even five minutes old and the pit lane entry bollard has already fallen victim to @Charles_Leclerc. #F1 #TurkishGP pic.twitter.com/iqkCIhyzET
— RaceFans Live (@racefanslive) November 13, 2020
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The session was restarted seven minutes after the red flag was thrown with Valtteri Bottas the first man out. The Finn posted a 1:48 only to lose his time for exceeding track limits at Turn 1. His next lap, a legal one, was a 1:45. He lowered the benchmark to a 1:43.
While George Russell waited to start his morning’s running news broke that he is facing an engine penalty for a fourth ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H.
Kimi Raikkonen was the next to set a time, a leisurely 1:57 and then a 1:55. Carlos Sainz went second, then Max Verstappen went second. Both lost their times for exceeding limits. Verstappen’s second timed lap put him P2, 6.4s down, while Vettel moved up third ahead of Sainz, Raikkonen and Alex Albon.
A spinning Pierre Gasly momentarily brought out the yellow flags as he lost control on a wet patch at Turn 2 and ended up facing in the wrong direction.
Just past the halfway stage in FP1 and the drivers are still having issues with grip
Pierre Gasly goes for a spin – but it looks cool from the heli cam 🚁📸#TurkishGP 🇹🇷 #F1 pic.twitter.com/myHi6BH9Cc
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 13, 2020
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Verstappen took over from Bottas at the front with a 1:42.7 as Sainz was told to box as McLaren needed to “understand some things on the engine”. The team later disclosed that it was a “a small electrical issue”.
Verstappen’s next lap was a 1:41.7 putting him 1.2s up on Bottas with Leclerc up to third at the 40-minute mark. Only Lewis Hamilton didn’t set a time in the first 40.
Heading back out for a second run on the hard tyres Bottas again hit the front with a 1:40.1, a 1:39.2, and then a 1:38.9. But still no sign of his team-mate as Mercedes worked on both the front and back of Hamilton’s W11 with reports the Brit wanted a full set-up change.
Leclerc and Vettel both upped their pace, improving to second and third, make that third and fourth as Verstappen, on the hards, laid down a 1:38.5 to go quickest. Esteban Ocon moved up to fifth ahead of Daniil Kvyat, who is looking for a job for next season.
Back out on track Sainz’s session came to a premature end as he parked his McLaren on the side of the track at Turn 7. “Engine, power steering” was the Spaniard’s assessment. That brought out VSC as the marshals pushed his car through a gap to safety.
Vettel and Ferrari took over at the front, a 1:36.0 with Leclerc up to second, as Hamilton took to the circuit for the final 15 minutes of running. Verstappen, having dropped to third, reported a problem with his brakes. Leclerc jumped ahead of his team-mate by 0.1s with Hamilton going from 18th to 17th to 14th and then 9th. His team-mate spun at Turn 9.
Verstappen put in a late dash, still on the hard tyres, to finish P1 with a 1:35.7, 0.241s up on his team-mate Albon. Leclerc was third for Ferrari.
Gasly was fourth ahead of Vettel, Kvyat, Norris, Antonio Giovinazzi, Bottas, and Ocon.
CLASSIFICATION: END OF FP1 ⏱️
A top ten with a few surprises following the first F1 session in Istanbul since 2011#TurkishGP 🇹🇷 #F1 pic.twitter.com/1aY03cnZ0v
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 13, 2020
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