Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton went quickest in the sole practice session for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as Formula 1 returned to Imola for a grand prix weekend for the first time since 2006. Hamilton beat Red Bull Racing’s Max Versatppen by almost three tenths of a second as Valtteri Bottas took third place in the sister Mercedes.
With a revised two-day program in place for this event, drivers and team had just 90 minutes in which to prepare for qualifying and tomorrow’s race and with practice compressed from its usual four hours on Friday and Saturday the track was busy throughout.
Verstappen was initially quickest on Pirelli’s C2 tire, the compound nominated as this weekend’s hard tire, with the Dutch driver working his way to a best time of 1:15.338 on the white-banded rubber.
Mercedes, meanwhile, spent the opening part of the session on medium tires, with Hamilton getting to within two hundredths of a second of Verstappen and with Bottas four tenths of a second further back.
Verstappen was then one of the early adopters of soft tires as the majority of the field began to switch to performance runs.
The Red Bull driver traded fastest times with Bottas but then put down a stronger marker with a lap of 1:15.023 that gave him an advantage of almost two tenths over the Finn. Hamilton put in two push laps on the soft and after splitting the top two he went quickest with his second lap setting as new benchmark of 1:14.726 that would last until the checkered flag.
The top three then shifted their attention to longer runs, with Verstappen trying both the soft and hard tires over distance while Mercedes again looked at long-run pace on the mediums.
Late in the session there was a sudden burst of activity as a clutch of drivers put in late qualifying simulations. Like Hamilton, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly put in two push laps and after jumping from P10 to P6 with his first he then climbed even higher to finish the session in P4 thanks to lap of 1:15.633 that left him 0.907 adrift of Hamilton.
Charles Leclerc took fifth place for Ferrari six hundredths of as second behind Gasly. The Monegasque driver’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel spent much of the session on hard tires before he too put in a late run on softs. The German completed six laps on the red-walled tire on his way to P12.
Behind Leclerc Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth for Renault, with team-mate Esteban Ocon a tenth behind in seventh. Daniil Kvyat was eighth for AlphaTauri, a little over three tenths of a second behind Gasly, while Red Bull’s Alexander Albon ended up ninth on 1:16.061 over second behind team-mate Verstappen. The top 10 was rounded out by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll.
2020 FIA Formula 1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – Practice
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:14.726 46 236.495
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:15.023 0.297 39 235.559
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.218 0.492 47 234.949
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:15.633 0.907 46 233.659
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:15.688 0.962 41 233.490
6 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:15.839 1.113 32 233.025
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 1:15.945 1.219 44 232.699
8 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri/Honda 1:15.966 1.240 47 232.635
9 Alexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1:16.061 1.335 41 232.345
10 Lance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1:16.082 1.356 42 232.280
11 Sergio Pérez Racing Point/Mercedes 1:16.109 1.383 42 232.198
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:16.167 1.441 40 232.021
13 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1:16.550 1.824 42 230.860
14 Carlos Sainz McLaren/Renault 1:16.560 1.834 42 230.830
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:16.564 1.838 33 230.818
16 Lando Norris McLaren/Renault 1:16.671 1.945 45 230.496
17 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:16.684 1.958 43 230.457
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:16.780 2.054 43 230.169
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:17.060 2.334 45 229.332
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:17.779 3.053 29 227.213