Lewis Hamilton off the pace in Portuguese Grand Prix first practice to Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas on weekend where Brit chases record 92nd Formula One victory
- Valtteri Bottas was quickest in first practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix
- The Finn was three tenths quicker than Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton
- Max Verstappen was a distant third for Red Bull with Charles Leclerc in fourth
- Hamilton will beat Michael Schumacher’s 91 wins if he triumphs on Sunday
Lewis Hamilton was caught off guard in first practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix after finishing three tenths behind Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
After matching Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 victories last time out in Germany at the Eifel Grand Prix, the Brit heads into the weekend at the Portimao circuit hoping to eclipse the former Ferrari star’s total.
F1 has not raced in Portugal since 1996, and it is the sport’s first appearance at the track in the Algarve for a world championship race.
Lewis Hamilton ended second quickest for Mercedes in first practice for the Portuguese GP
The Brit heads into the weekend at the Portimao circuit hoping to land a record 92nd victory
Max Verstappen completed the top three for Red Bull, with Charles Leclerc an impressive fourth fastest for the struggling Ferrari outfit.
Despite looming clouds, the session remained dry as drivers cautiously toured the circuit for the first time, with many complaining about a lack of grip despite the recent resurfacing of the undulating layout.
The weekend though already points towards another battle between the Mercedes duo though with Bottas finishing well over seven tenths of a second clear of third placed Verstappen.
It is the sixth race in a row the Finn has gone fastest in the first session of the weekend but only at the Russian Grand Prix two races back has he managed to convert it to victory, with Hamilton winning three of the others.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas (above) was quickest during the morning session
The Finn arrives with his girlfriend cyclist Tiffany Cromwell on Friday morning
Verstappen’s team-mate Alex Albon was the only other driver to get within a second of Bottas’s time of 1:18.410, with Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly completing the top 10.
Sebastian Vettel endured another miserable morning down in 11th for Ferrari nearly nine tenths off team-mate Leclerc’s time, with Britain’s Lando Norris 12th quickest.
Esteban Ocon endured mechanical difficulties for Renault, ending the session with smoke coming out his car and his team telling him not to change gears.
The Frenchman finished the morning 19th, sandwiched between the Williams duo led by George Russell.
Mercedes’ rivals were well off the pace with Max Verstappen (above) third quickest for Red Bull
Racing at Portimao for the first time, the drivers tested their limits as Charles Leclerc spins off in his Ferrari in F1’s first return to Portugal for 26 years
Hamilton meanwhile has criticised F1 bosses heading into the weekend after the appointment of Vitaly Petrov as a race steward following the former Russian driver’s recent controversial comments regarding Black Lives Matter and equal rights.
Petrov, who is making his debut as one of four stewards at this weekend’s race, said: ‘A Black Lives Matter T-shirt is superfluous, as is calling on everyone to kneel.
‘It is a personal matter for every adult. According to our traditions, a man kneels only in two cases – in a place of worship before God and when you propose to your future wife.’
The Ferrari star (left) though recovered to fourth and eight tenths down on Bottas (right)
In a session with little drama, Esteban Ocon saw his power unit smoke at the very end
Rain clouds loomed over the circuit in the Algarve but the morning session remained dry
He added: ‘What if one of the drivers comes out as gay? Will they get a rainbow flag and urge everyone else to become gay?’
Hamilton, who has led the sport’s fight for equality by calling on his fellow drivers to take a knee, hit back, saying: ‘It is a surprise to see they are hiring someone who is so vocal about things we are trying to fight against.
‘We should be including people who are with the times and sensitive to the matters that are surrounding us. So I don’t really understand what the FIA’s goal is or why he is here. It is not like they don’t have other options.’
The FIA declined to comment.
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