Silverstone’s innovative format compelled F1 to schedule Friday’s action later than usual, but the first practice session kicked off under cloudy skies but on a dry track.
However, with lower temperatures all round later today, qualifying will likely unfold under different conditions which is but another factor to throw into the mix. And because teams and drivers were only given a single 60-minute session, everyone was up and running at the outset, focused on set-up and aero balance.
Home favourite and darling of the crowds Lewis Hamilton took to the track under a roaring crowd, a sight and a sound that the Briton had not felt for since his last visit to Silverstone in 2019.
However, it was Verstappen who set the first representative time, the Dutchman running on the hard tyre. But just to get their rivalry rolling, Hamilton shot back with a lap on the mediums that put the Mercedes ahead by 0.584s.
Bottas followed suit, also advancing ahead of Verstappen but slotting in second behind Hamilton. The Finn pressed on and overhauled his teammate, but the Mercedes duo’s 1-2 was short-lived, disrupted by an impressive effort by Perez who set back Bottas by 0.518s.
But whatever Perez does, Max can do better, as he proved when he edged his teammate by 0.326s with a lap in 1m27.745s.
Confined to the bottom half of the field during the first 30 minutes, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz vaulted to third and fifth respectively, the pair sandwiching Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, as the track rubbered in and improved, the action was frantic and rotations behind Verstappen were fast and furious, with Lando Norris, Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly getting a grip on the top five.
But as the session unwound, Verstappen remained out of reach, and by a comfortable 0.779s margin over Norris, with Hamilton 0.780s behind.
Behind the top-three, Leclerc, Bottas and Sainz rounded off the top six while Vettel, Perez, Ricciardo and Ocon completed the top ten.
2021 F1 BRITISH GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE RESULTS (1)
|1||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||1m27.035s|
|2||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||1m27.814s|
|3||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1m27.815s|
|4||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow||1m27.828s|
|5||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1m27.897s|
|6||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow||1m27.923s|
|7||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1m28.062s|
|8||Sergio Perez||MEX||Red Bull Racing||1m28.163s|
|9||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||1m28.211s|
|10||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Alpine F1 Team||1m28.415s|
|11||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1m28.449s|
|12||Yuki Tsunoda||JPN||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1m28.600s|
|13||Antonio Giovinazzi||GBR||Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen||1m28.827s|
|14||Fernando Alonso||CHI||Alpine F1 Team||1m28.873s|
|15||Kimi Raikkonen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen||1m29.220s|
|16||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1m29.227s|
|17||Mick Schumacher||GER||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1m29.227s|
|18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1m29.597s|
|19||Nikita Mazepin||RUS||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1m29.808|
|20||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1m29.857|