Valtttei Bottas continued to set the pace in practice for this weekend’s FIA Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix with the Mercedes driver beating Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to the top of the FP2 timesheet in a session defined by two red flag spells.
The session began with a 30-minute spell during which teams tested unmarked 13-inch prototype slick tires for next year, according to a run plan to be defined by Pirelli. The aim of the test was to validate the development of tires for 2021.
During the test period it was Bottas who went quickest with the Finn setting a best time of 1:21.662, with Leclerc slotting into P2 thanks to a lap of 1m22.043s. Bottas’s time was almost three seconds of the timesheet-topping pace he’d shown on this weekend’s medium tires in FP1, though fuel loads for the test were unspecified.
With a third of the session run, teams then returned to the work of this weekend and with medium tires on board Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel soon jumped to the top of the order with a lap of 1:19.936. The German lowered the benchmark to 1:19. 175 but then had a small spin at Turn 14 on his next lap.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took up the challenge and improved to 1:19.033 and then improved to 1:18.535 before Bottas became the first man to move to a qualifying simulation on soft tires. The red rubber provided immediate reward and the Mercedes man reclaimed top spot with a good lap of 1:17.940.
His was only qualifying simulation for some time, however, as soon after the Finn had set a new target time the red flags were shown when Pierre Gasly pulled over at the side of track with the rear of his AlphaTauri in flames. Running was halted for some 15 minutes as the fire was extinguished and Gasly’s car recovered.
When the action resumed with half an hour left on the clock most drivers returned to the track on soft tires. Once again though the green light spell was shortlived as just five minutes later Verstappen and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll collided on track and the red flags were once again displayed.
Stroll, just back after testing positive for COVID-19 after the Eifel Grand Prix two weeks ago, was ahead of Verstappen into Turn 1. But amid confusion about the Canadian’s intentions on the lap, the Red Bull driver hit the right-rear of the Canadian’s Racing Point, with the result that Stroll was pitched into the gravel and Verstappen was forced back to the pits. The incident was placed under investigation by the stewards.
The session finally got going again with a little over seven minutes and again a stream of cars headed for the pit exit on soft tires.
While the top two positions remained unchanged, with Verstappen lapping on mediums again, McLaren’s Lando Norris made the most of the short amount of running to climb to third on the timesheet with a late lap of 1:18.743.
Fourth place went to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with the Monegasque driver just under a tenths of a second behind Norris. Carlos Sainz took fifth place in the second McLaren, 1.1s behind Bottas and Vettel looked more comfortable with his Ferrari than at recent races as he took sixth spot 1.235s behind the pacesetting Mercedes.
The unfortunate Gasly was just three thousandths of a second slower than Vettel in seventh place, while championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished eighth ahead of Renault’s Esteban Ocon and the second Red Bull of Alex Albon.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Portuguese Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:17.940 32 214.919
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:18.535 0.595 34 213.290
3 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:18.743 0.803 35 212.727
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.838 0.898 34 212.471
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:19.113 1.173 32 211.732
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:19.175 1.235 34 211.566
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:19.178 1.238 26 211.558
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.308 1.368 27 211.211
9 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:19.496 1.556 32 210.712
10 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:19.643 1.703 37 210.323
11 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:19.821 1.881 33 209.854
12 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:19.901 1.961 34 209.644
13 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:19.987 2.047 28 209.419
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:20.465 2.525 33 208.174
15 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:20.490 2.550 34 208.110
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:20.680 2.740 29 207.620
17 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1:20.729 2.789 33 207.494
18 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:20.867 2.927 32 207.140
19 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:20.983 3.043 26 206.843
20 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:21.396 3.456 34 205.793