FP1: Bottas leads Verstappen in close opening practice session at Portimao

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Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen traded places at the top of the charts throughout FP1, but it was Bottas who ended up narrowly fastest in the first session of the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix.

Bottas equipped his W12 with soft tyres with 20 minutes remaining and set the benchmark time, improving to an eventual fastest lap of 1m19.648s. Verstappen, who arrived at Portimao with an upgraded RB16B car, developed a flat spot on his tyre late in the session and said his car was “impossible to drive” thanks to the vibrations. Despite that, the Dutchman finished just 0.025s off Bottas on soft tyres.

Lewis Hamilton finished fifth, three-tenths down by the chequered flag on the same C3 soft compounds. The reigning champion was beaten by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc (P4) by under a tenth of a second.

That left Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who ran an aero rake early in the session – possibly testing the team’s new parts – in third place, 0.198s off Bottas’ pace.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly finished sixth, and Saturday star George Russell finished a surprise seventh for Williams, beating eighth-place Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz to the position. It meant McLaren’s Imola podium-sitter Lando Norris finished ninth, closely followed by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon who rounded out the top 10.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was next up in 11th, just ahead of 12th placed Daniel Ricciardo of McLaren. Stroll’s team mate Sebastian Vettel finished 16th, his session blotted only by a brief stop in McLaren’s pit stop halfway through.

Fernando Alonso was the only driver to begin the session on softs – rivals waiting for the 30-minute mark to do so – and Alpine’s two-time champion unusually set his fastest lap on hard tyres to go 14th overall, behind AlphaTauri’s rookie Yuki Tsunoda.

2020 Formula 2 Championship runner-up Callum Ilott replaced Antonio Giovinazzi at Alfa Romeo for FP1. Ilott, who is now Alfa Romeo’s official reserve driver, finished 17th in his FP1 debut. Kimi Raikkonen in the other Alfa Romeo was just four-tenths faster and finished 15th, the two split by Vettel.

While Williams’ Russell was up in seventh, his team mate Nicholas Latifi was 19th overall. He split the two Haas drivers, with Mick Schumacher in 18th and Nikita Mazepin 2.3s slower than his team mate to round out the standings in 20th.

So with Verstappen just a whisker behind Bottas it looks like we could have another titanic Mercedes vs Red Bull battle this weekend at Portimao.

FP2 follows at 1500 local time with all to play for in Portugal, and live coverage and reaction right here on F1.com.

2021 Portugese Grand Prix — FP1 Results

177Valtteri BottasMERCEDES1:19.64831
233Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING HONDA1:19.673+0.025s23
311Sergio PerezRED BULL RACING HONDA1:19.846+0.198s22
416Charles LeclercFERRARI1:19.884+0.236s27
544Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:19.967+0.319s32
610Pierre GaslyALPHATAURI HONDA1:20.444+0.796s31
763George RussellWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:20.529+0.881s29
84Lando NorrisMCLAREN MERCEDES1:20.635+0.987s26
955Carlos SainzFERRARI1:20.680+1.032s27
1031Esteban OconALPINE RENAULT1:20.800+1.152s27
1118Lance StrollASTON MARTIN MERCEDES1:20.894+1.246s29
123Daniel RicciardoMCLAREN MERCEDES1:20.995+1.347s31
1322Yuki TsunodaALPHATAURI HONDA1:21.090+1.442s28
1414Fernando AlonsoALPINE RENAULT1:21.303+1.655s31
157Kimi RäikkönenALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI1:21.381+1.733s25
165Sebastian VettelASTON MARTIN MERCEDES1:21.405+1.757s31
1798Callum IlottALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI1:21.806+2.158s21
1847Mick SchumacherHAAS FERRARI1:21.939+2.291s29
196Nicholas LatifiWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:22.293+2.645s29
209Nikita MazepinHAAS FERRARI1:24.224+4.576s29

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