Valtterri Bottas went quickest in the opening practice session for this weekend’s FIA Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with the Mercedes driver edging team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just four hundredths of a second. Third place in the session went to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen who finished under two hundredths of a second further back.
The one-hour session got off to a busy start with a flurry of cars taking to the track and top spot changed hands frequently during the opening quarter of an hour. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was quickly to the fore with Bottas then leaping ahead with the time of 1:20.345s set on hard tyres. That was swiftly beaten by Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen though Bottas reclaimed P1 with an improved time of 1:19.312s.
Sergio Perez went quicker by a tenth of a second to claim top spot for red Bull Racing but his stay at the top was short as Ferrari's Carlos Sainz dipped below the 1m19s barrier with as P1 lap of 1:18.764s set on hard tyres.
Hamilton soon edged ahead of that but Sainz grabbed back control with a lap of 1:17.682.
The first incident of the morning saw AlphaTauri rookie Yuki Tsunodo go off track at the Tamburello chicane and recover before team-mate Pierre Gasly vaulted to the top of the order with a lap on of 1:17.470. Within minutes Bottas was back out on track to reclaim P1 by a little over seven hundredths of a second. Sainz was enjoying the conditions, however, and he soon pushed past Bottas’ benchmark to set the benchmark at 1:17.296s.
The session was then red-flagged following what appeared to be contact between Pérez and Ocon.
Pérez exited the Villeneuve chicane with a deflated rear left tyre and with the carcass causing damage to the rear of his car. He slid to a halt as Ocon went past, though the French driver swiftly halted his Alpine a little further up the track with apparent front wing damage.
After a 10-minute delay the action resumed and with soft tyres on board. Hamilton jumped past Sainz’s time to claim P1 with a lap of 1:16.892s. Verstappen also took to the track on the red-banded compound as he rose to the top of the order with a lap of 1:16.622.
But both Mercedes driver went out for another attempt and both snuck past the Dutchman with Bottas returning to first place with a lap of 1:16.564. That put him 0.041s ahead of Hamilton and 0.058 in front of Verstappen.
Behind them, Charles Leclerc took fourth place despite missing a chunk of the session with a technical issue on his Ferrari. Gasly finished fifth ahead of Sainz with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso seventh ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll. Williams’ Nicholas Latifi was ninth and the top 10 was rounded out by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
There was late red flag in the session when Haas’ Nikita Mazepin went wide on the exit of Rivazza and slid into the wall near the pitlane entry.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:16.564 23 230.818
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.605 0.041 25 230.695
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:16.622 0.058 21 230.643
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.796 0.232 13 230.121
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1:16.888 0.324 21 229.846
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:16.888 0.324 26 229.846
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1:17.457 0.893 23 228.157
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:17.489 0.925 19 228.063
9 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1:17.739 1.175 24 227.329
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1:17.769 1.205 23 227.242
11 George Russell Williams 1:17.866 1.302 25 226.959
12 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo 1:17.883 1.319 16 226.909
13 Lando Norris McLaren 1:17.935 1.371 16 226.758
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1:17.984 1.420 23 226.615
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:18.058 1.494 24 226.400
16 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1:18.228 1.664 15 225.908
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:18.360 1.796 20 225.528
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas 1:18.823 2.259 22 224.203
19 Mick Schumacher Haas1:19.480 2.916 18 222.350
20 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1:19.781 3.217 11 221.511