Formula One: Bottas leads the way in Tuscan Grand Prix practice

MUGELLO, ITALY (REUTERS) – Valtteri Bottas put dominant champions Mercedes on top of the timesheets in Friday (Sept 11) practice for the Tuscan Grand Prix, the first Formula One championship race held at Ferrari’s Mugello circuit.

Team mate Lewis Hamilton, who leads the Finn by 47 points in the championship after eight races, completed the one-two on a sunny and eventful afternoon in Italy with a time 0.207 slower.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who had been second before lunch, was third and 0.246 off the pace.

The top six went in pairs, with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon fourth fastest and the Renault pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon fifth and sixth.

McLaren’s Lando Norris became the first crasher of the day in the second session, which was twice stopped as drivers tested the limits.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had been an encouraging third in the morning, after his team’s dismal showing in Belgium and at their home Italian Grand Prix, but was 10th in the second session.

Team mate Sebastian Vettel was 12th and parked up by the side of the track before the session ended with an apparent engine problem after a spin.

The race is also a celebration of Ferrari’s 1,000th championship race with their cars carrying a retro burgundy livery harking back to their Formula One championship debut in 1950.

Bottas lapped with a best time of one minute 16.989 on the soft tyre in the afternoon, after a 1:17.879 seconds in session one.

It was the fifth time in a row that Bottas, who has so far won only the opening race in Austria in July, had been fastest in first practice.

Pierre Gasly, surprise winner at Monza for Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri, was fifth and eighth fastest respectively in the sessions.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Racing Point’s Sergio Perez collided late in the second session as the latter was exiting the pits, bringing out red flags again.

Most of the drivers were experiencing the fast, sweeping 5.2km track – more associated with MotoGP racing – for the first time.

Friday was the first time paying spectators had been allowed to attend a race in a Covid-19-hit season, with some 2,800 a day allowed in.

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