FIA Formula One World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton went quickest in an opening practice session for the Dutch Grand Prix that was heavily disrupted by suspected engine failure for Sebastian Vettel. Local hero Max Verstappen took second place on the timesheet ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc established an early lead with a hard-tyre time of 1:17.919 but he was swiftly usurped as drivers began to get to grips with the unfamiliar circuit, which is returning to the schedule for the first time since 1985.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly lowered the benchmark to 1:15.301 before McLaren’s Lando Norris stole P1 with a lap of 1:13.751. Verstappen then delighted the packed grandstands by taking top spot with a hard-tyre lap of 1:13.045. He was briefly dislodged by Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas but returned to P1 with the a lap of 1:12.850. Norris then restaked his claim to supremacy thanks to a lap of 1:12.679 just before Vettel brought running to a halt when his Aston Martin expired at the pit exit with a suspected power unit failure.
The German driver has reported a problem on his installation laps and had returned to the pits for checks. But when he emerged again he again hit trouble on his first timed lap and pulled over at the pit exit.
Vettel quickly climbed out of his car and fetched a fire extinguisher but after struggling to activate it he sought help from a track marshal who also appeared to have difficulty with the equipment. Eventually the extinguishers were engaged but Vettel’s car seeming to be in an electrically unsafe state there was a long delay as it was made safe.
The delay meant that when the green flags were shown there were just six minutes left in the session.
Leclerc posted a lap of 1:12.288 to take top spot but he was quickly ousted by Sainz and Bottas. Hamilton then powered past all of his rivals with a lap of 1:11.500. Verstappen got closest to the Briton with a lap of 1:11.597, 0.097s off Hamilton’s best time. slower than his title rival – the Dutch driver having to dodge traffic at several points after setting what was at that stage the fastest time in the first sector.
Sainz took third 0.101s behind Hamilton with Leclerc fourth ahead of Bottas and the Alpine cars of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Antonio Giovinazzi was eighth ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and the final top-10 place went to Gasly.
There was trouble for the Frenchman’s AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda. however.
The Japanese driver completed just three laps in the opening phase of the championship after he spun getting at Turn 10. He returned to the pit lane but took no further part int hr session.
2021 Dutch Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:11.500 17 214.439
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:11.597 0.097 18 214.148
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:11.601 0.101 19 214.136
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:11.623 0.123 18 214.070
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:11.738 0.238 18 213.727
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:12.158 0.658 18 212.483
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:12.231 0.731 17 212.268
8 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:12.359 0.859 18 211.893
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:12.431 0.931 18 211.682
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:12.515 1.015 19 211.437
11 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:12.679 1.179 18 210.960
12 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:12.907 1.407 16 210.300
13 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:13.053 1.553 20 209.880
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:13.081 1.581 18 209.800
15 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:13.181 1.681 15 209.513
16 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:13.328 1.828 18 209.093
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:13.516 2.016 14 208.558
18 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:13.847 2.347 17 207.623
19 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:15.984 4.484 6 201.784
Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 3