Bottas quickest in first and second practice ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton
Verstappen out of FP2 early on, stopping out on track with failure
Max Verstappen was dealt a blow in his bid to win Sunday's Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix after he broke down in practice.
The afternoon running in Imola for the second instalment of the championship was barely 10 minutes old when a mechanical failure ended Verstappen's participation.
The Dutchman, bidding to avenge defeat to Lewis Hamilton at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last month, pulled over at the end of the pit straight before returning to the Red Bull garage, with his team reporting a suspected driveshaft failure.
Verstappen, who had managed only five laps, was left as a helpless bystander as Valtteri Bottas completed a practice double for Mercedes ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen will be back for qualifying on Saturday, but the loss of track time could prove costly for the 23 year-old as he looks to take the title fight to Hamilton.
Hamilton opened his bid for an unprecedented eighth world championship with a defensive masterclass to keep Verstappen at bay and win in Bahrain.
But in terms of outright pace, Mercedes had few answers for Verstappen and Red Bull at the curtain raiser.
However, the black machines appear in better shape in Imola after completing a one-two finish in both of Friday's sessions.
Bottas ended the day just 0.010 seconds clear of Hamilton, with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly in third, 0.078 secs off the pace.
The afternoon action proved largely uneventful in comparison to the opening running which saw Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez collide and Nikita Mazepin crash out in his Haas.
A widespread technical failure at Imola meant that drivers were cast adrift, unable to speak with their respective pit walls over the radio.
Indeed, the stewards determined that the communication woes had a role in Ocon and Perez's collision as the two made contact through the fifth corner.
Perez sustained a left-rear puncture while Ocon was also forced out with damage to the front right of his Alpine but both men returned for the second session.
Mazepin was also able to take part in the concluding action after he crashed out at the final corner in the closing moments of the opening running.
With the technical problems fixed for second practice, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished fourth and fifth for Ferrari, but the latter was another driver in the wars.
With just three minutes remaining, the Monegasque lost control of his Ferrari through the left-handed turn 18 before running over the gravel and into the wall.
"I am sorry, guys," Leclerc said over the radio. "I was pushing quite a bit."
Perez finished sixth in his Red Bull, almost nine tenths slower than Bottas. McLaren's Lando Norris was ninth as Sebastian Vettel's troubled start to life with Aston Martin continued after he finished only 15th.
Second practice classification
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes 1:15.551
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – +0.010sec
Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri – +0.078s
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari – +0.283s
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari +0.820s
Sergio Pérez, Red Bull – +0.860s
Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri – +0.868s
Lando Norris, McLaren – +0.934s
Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo – +0.962s
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin – +1.186s
Esteban Ocon, Alpine – +1.266s
Nicholas Latifi, Williams – +1.272s
Fernando Alonso, Alpine +1.284s
Max Verstappen, Red Bull – +1.448s
Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin – +1.554s
George Russell, Williams – +1.628s
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo – +1.722s
Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren – +1.730s
Mick Schumacher, Haas – +1.799s
Nikita Mazepin, Haas – +2.306s
Thanks for joining me today
We will be back with the live action from qualifying, which takes place at 1pm BST. We will be ready to go from around 12 noon. We will have Phil Duncan's practice report from Imola up for you shortly.
That was another incident-filled session
Verstappen only managing five laps and few of them meaningful. Mercedes looking pretty tasty though we do not know Red Bull's true pace. With Pérez as far back as he was it would suggest that Mercedes might even have the advantage here. We will see, though, bit it is about recovery for Verstappen and Red Bull here.
Ferrari looking decent (relatively), too, though Leclerc did shove his car in the wall at the end of the session.
FP2 - CLASSIFICATION
CHEQUERED FLAG - FP2 ENDS
Valtteri Bottas is ahead for the second session in a row, just 0.010s ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The second Mercedes 1-2 of the day. Pierre Gasly in third, followed by the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
FP2 - Leclerc in the wall, session will not restart
FP2 - RED FLAG
Charles Leclerc is in the wall at the final corner. He has gone in heavily and that will be the session red flagged. He should be okay but I am not sure we will get any more running.
"Sorry guys. I was pushing... quite a bit." Lost it early into the approach to the second Rivazza as his rear got out of shape. Oversteered, corrected and ended up going into the barrier forwards.
FP2 - Five minutes remain
Red Bull were in dreamland in Bahrain until the race got going, really, looking the class of the field in all practice and qualifying sessions. The same cannot be said of their weekend so far in Imola, having lost a lot of valuable time. Sergio Pérez does not look to have fantastic pace so far...
FP2 - Full order and gaps with 10 mins left
This order is unlikely to change in the final 10 minutes with high-fuel running predominant. If Verstappen got out again, though? Maybe, but that looks unlikely.
FP2 - Not exactly a quick lap from Ricciardo
3.923s down after two sectors which obviously means it is not a hot run but a high-fuel run. Mercedes have both cars running on the mediums in what looks to be another 1-2 for them. Will Red Bull be worried at this point? I think they have to be...
FP2 - Daniel Ricciardo currently down in 18th
Hasn't managed to get a proper hot lap on the board yet but he has bolted on a fresh set of softs to have another go in his McLaren.
FP2 - 20 minutes remain
A few drivers losing their lap times for track limits violations. Not much chance of an overtake happening off track this weekend, mind you. Strange to see Latifi so far ahead of Russell in both sessions. Looks a decent weekend from him so far.
FP2 - Quick update on the order - Top 10
Hamilton improves to go just 0.01s behind Bottas, with a second hot lap on the soft tyres.
Looks close in the midfield, again.
FP2 - Verstappen's car is back in the garage
Still waiting to hear what the problem was from Red Bull, but possibly electrical. Even five or six laps would be something...
FP2 - Bottas on another hot lap
On the soft tyres but he is failing to get close to his previous best lap – 0.576s down by the end of it. He was giving it full beans, though. Pérez, the lone Red Bull now, moves up into sixth but 0.860s off Bottas's fastest time.
FP2 - Soft tyre hot lap for Hamilton
Looks to be giving it some in the first few corners, though it could just be the camera angle. He's 0.098s down on Bottas at the end of sector one. 0.142s down in sector two so looks unlikely to be troubling the top of the timesheet on this run... unless he is saving his tyres. Nope. Strange one. He ends up nearly four-tenths down and behind even Pierre Gasly, who improved to go 0.08s behind Bottas. Third for Hamilton.
FP2 - 34 minutes left
Gasly up into fourth, two tenths ahead of team-mate Tsunoda. Hamilton out on a fresh set of soft tyres, so this will be interesting. Red Bull must be more than a little concerned now, with so much running being lost. FP3 is going to be vital tomorrow morning.
FP2 - A few movers, though on the soft tyres
Sainz goes third, 0.283s off Bottas and Ocon is now in fourth, 1.266s off the pace. Latifi for Williams is only just behind him and ahead of a few other runners who have completed their first runs on soft tyres including Fernando Alonso. Are Williams looking a little handy (handier?) this weekend? Let's see...
FP2 - Here's a quick order with gaps
Most drivers have done seven or eight laps. Ricciardo with 10.
MAZ (no time)
FP2 - Sounds like something in the drivetrain went for Verstappen
He lost power as he crossed the finish line. Anyway, Gasly has popped up into second as he has done a few times so far today. He is 0.566s off Bottas, though. Hamilton knocks him down to third, posting a lap time just over a tenth off his Finnish team-mate.
FP2 - YELLOW FLAG
Verstappen has stopped out on track... he's out of the session, just out of the pit lane exit.
That will be a Virtual Safety Car.
That is far from ideal. He is right at the end of the pit lane but you cannot just wheel the car back into the pit lane backwards. Doesn't seem likely that they will get any more running this afternoon, which just leaves an hour tomorrow. This session would have been crucial. Advantage Mercedes?
FP2 - Bottas moves ahead of Leclerc to go fastest
A 1:16.468, 0.237s quicker than Leclerc. Sainz has posted a lap just a tad slower than his team-mate. Encouraging early times from Ferrari. They are not likely to get close to troubling Red Bull or Mercedes but leading the midfield could be a possibility, it seems.
FP2 - Leclerc back into first
See-sawing and yo-yoing early on here with plenty of on-track action, which has tended to be the way with these one-hour practice sessions on Friday and I love it.
FP2 - Bottas up into second now
0.006s off Leclerc's quickest time. Verstappen on his first hot lap of the session, what can he do?
Hamilton goes into first whilst he is through the final sector and then Verstappen ends up second, 0.059s behind. Interesting.
FP2 - 56 mins left
Sainz goes quickest, only to be beaten by Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc by 0.718s.
FP2 - Plenty of drivers out now
Busy track early on. The wind has picked up a bit since the morning and it has clouded over a little, too.
GREEN LIGHT - FP2 begins
An hour of power. Or something like that.
It appears that we have the right amount of on-screen data from F1
Phew. Not that it was impossible to follow what was going on but not knowing what tyres each car was on (if they were not on camera) made it a little difficult to really assess.
Right, we are nearly ready go get going again
Wonder if it'll be as frantic as the first session. I do hope so.
Data issues at the track
The issues not only affected our liveblogging (no driver tracker and no information) but more importantly the data the teams had. Much of what they would expect was missing, there was – and there will not be – any onboard footage from the session and driver/team radio malfunctioned during the session, too.
Let's hope it's fixed. Obviously it's kind of a plus as it would have affected the amount each team could learn in the morning session and the more of that the more unpredictable things are likely to be.
And welcome back. Second practice gets under way in just under 30 minutes and we will be here for all of it.
Here is a brief video recap of first practice a few hours ago.
Thanks for joining me
I'll be back for second practice at around 1pm. The session starts at 1.30 BST. See you then.
Well, what to make of that?
I don't think it is anything outside the realm of what we expected. Very little in it, though perhaps a little encouragement for Mercedes. But difficult to read much into it at this stage. Ninth and 11th for Williams and within 1.4s of the quickest time for both cars, which seems promising. No points for ninth on Friday, though.
They did not exactly pull up any trees at Bahrain, so what can they do here?
There was little official live data available during this session so I am unsure who used what tyres, but I doubt many of the big boys went out on soft tyres at this stage.
CHEQUERED FLAG - FP1 ENDS
It's a Mercedes 1-2 with Bottas leading Hamilton and then Max Verstappen. Less than a tenth in it all.
FP1 - Mazepin into the barriers as the chequered flag falls
He has slid backwards out of the final corner, into the barriers quite slowly but still losing part of his front wing. He is mere metres away from the pit-lane entry but is stranded... another spin for the Russian. Wonder if his sponsorship money will be outstripped by the amount they have to spend in repairs.
That will be another RED FLAG and the end of the session (it was over, anyway, really)...
FP1 - Gasly into second now
Just 0.004s quicker than Hamilton, but not for long... Hamilton goes fastest of all for all of about two seconds, before he himself is usurped by team-mate Bottas. Verstappen slips into third! just 0.058s between all three of them. Nice. Unlikely to be 100 per cent representative, though...
FP1 - Verstappen goes quickest
0.270S quicker than Hamilton. Leclerc finally sets a time for Ferrari and he is just 0.017s off Hamilton's time and in third. Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes take up five of the top six spots. What is this, 2018?
FP1 - How Ocon and Sainz's cars ended up to cause the red flag
FP1 - This track is not really designed for a busy free practice
All these cars on a fairly narrow track, some on out laps, some on hot laps and some on in-laps. Only five minutes remain...
Bottas goes third, a tenth or so off Hamilton.
FP1 - Hamilton goes quickest
0.305s quicker than Sainz now. Stroll up into sixth, six-tenths off the pace. Christian Horner confirms that there was some contact between Ocon and Pérez but we do not exactly know how it happened. The Red Bull was on a hot lap and Ocon on a slow lap so you can have a fair guess at what occurred though not who was in the wrong. No proper replays of it at the moment, unfortunately.
Latifi with a bit of rally cross in the first Rivazza gravel trap.
FP1 - GREEN FLAG
Hazards cleared and action resumed.
FP1 - May as well do a run down while the red flag is out
LEC (no time)
Just 15 minutes remaining as the clock continues to run down. Action should resume shortly, though...
FP1 - RED FLAG
Sainz had just gone quickest by 0.035s there, ahead of Verstappen.
Pérez walks away from the track and Ocon does the same. We still do not know if it was a collision or not, the only replay we have had is Pérez going backwards into the chicane with a deflated rear left and Ocon following him around.
Ocon and Perez have stopped at the side/on the track in the first sector... not sure what's happened. Not mega damage on Pérez's car, cannot fully see Ocon's.
It looks like a left-rear puncture, so maybe they collided... no replays yet.
FP1 - Bottas goes quickest by 0.074s
These new, hour-long practice sessions are a hell of a lot more frantic.
FP1 - Hamilton now up into second, briefly
With a time 0.133s off Gasly. He is then knocked off by just under a tenth by Verstappen.
Leclerc still yet to set a lap time, though he has done four laps in total – two outs and two ins presumably. Just him, Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher are the only drivers in single figures for the day.
FP1 - Verstappen, in fourth, runs across one of the chicanes
He's out there on a set of hard tyres, though the timing information I have from Formula 1 is failing to show how many laps he has done on them. A lot of the systems (driver tracker) do not appear to be working at all today, so apologies for that.
FP1 - Gasly now goes quickest
0.212s quicker than Sainz this time. Leclerc the only man yet to set a lap time. Norris up into ninth and Ocon in the Alpine just ahead of him.
FP1 - Gasly pops up into second
+0.061s off Sainz's quickest time. Qualified fourth here last year and fifth in Bahrain last time out. Chance of nipping onto the second row this weekend? Decent, I would say.
FP1 - Order after 20 minutes
ALO (no time)
LEC (no time)
FP1 - So much action at the moment
Some striking images of Vettel coming into the second chicane. He has to back off from whatever lap he was on, though, as he hits traffic.
FP1 - Tsunoda in the gravel
He struggles to get it out but does so in the end. AlphaTauri looking in fine form so far this year and went very well at this track last year, too.
FP1 - Here's a quick order, not that it means much
Nobody else (Tsunoda, Alonso, Mazepin, Leclerc, Gasly and Schumacher) has set a time. And Norris is 13 seconds off Hamilton's pace, so... yeah, early days.
FP1 - Hamilton goes quickest
He was giving it some: a 1.18.257, and half a second quicker than Sainz in second. Pole position last year was a 1.13.609, so we are still a little way off that yet... wonder what we will end up with?
FP1 - Bottas leads Pérez in the early stages
By 0.480s, with Carlos Sainz in first. These times are pretty meaningless, though. The drivers are just getting themselves up to speed and feeling themselves in. That said, Lewis Hamilton looks to be giving it some at the beginning of the lap...
FP1 - Mazepin in the gravel...
At the final corner before the pit lane entry. His short F1 career has been characterised by spins so far... he does manage to get it out and make the 100 or so metres back into the pit lane.
FP1 - The two Alfa Romeos set the first two lap times
As the sun comes out and the TV pictures return. Ocon then goes some four seconds quicker than Giovinazzi. Exploratory laps only at the moment on a very cold track. Tentative stuff you would imagine.
FP1 - 58 minutes remaining
A handful of drivers out but we have no TV pictures... that is handy. And there's a yellow flag... think it was Pérez. Not a lasting flag, however.
First practice begins!
60 minutes remaining. Remember the bad old days when they would be 90 minutes long?
We are nearly ready to get going
It looks to have clouded over a bit...
Fair to say that Lewis Hamilton was a bit cold yesterday
Weather a lot better today. The sun is out and highs of around 14c. Will struggle to get much warmer than that this weekend on current forecasts.
Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso may struggle to remind F1 that they are not yesterday's men
Two troubling races for two former champions in Bahrain. Vettel had to start from the back and shunted into Esteban Ocon and Alonso fell back through the field, eventually retiring with a brake failure brought on by a sandwich bag being where it should not be. Of all the teams Alpine and Aston Martin will probably be the most concerned with their performances so far this season. They look to have dropped a little way off the back of the midfield early on.
There is still time for them to make this up, of course, but they – like all other teams – face a development dilemma: do they focus on this year's car and in-season development at the expense of next year's, when big regulation changes come in. So, where does that leave Alonso and Vettel? Read my comment piece here.
OK, you've seen the standings, but which teams should be happy after one race?
I had a look at some of the data from the first race weekend, testing and last season to see which teams will be happy with how things went and the possibilities for the season ahead. You can read that here, with a ranking of all teams. The ranking reflects a progress chart as much as anything.
Current constructor standings
Current championship standings: Drivers - Top 10
And welcome to our coverage for Friday's two practice sessions for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola. After a long wait to resume racing at the start of the 2021 season, we have had another long wait to arrive at Imola. Following the brilliant Bahrain Grand Prix, three weeks seems like an annoying amount of time until the second race of the year. But from here on in the races come thick and fast, assuming no Covid-related cancellations or postponements, that is...
In that first race, we were reminded of the enduring brilliance of Lewis Hamilton, who held off a charging Max Verstappen – who had taken pole – in a thrilling race that had a bit going for it strategically, as well. There was a track limits debate, sadly, as Verstappen "took" the lead when off the track and gave the position back to Hamilton, but overall it was a fantastic season opener and one which has set the season up superbly.
Clearly the big question this weekend is, will Red Bull's advantage still be there? Mercedes have talked themselves down a little but but that seems fair enough as in qualifying trim they were some way off Red Bull in Bahrain. Hamilton put in a brilliant performance and Verstappen did lose at least some lap time through a differential issue. I think we learned a fair amount where the teams really are in Bahrain but there will likely be some fluctuations and Imola is a very different track to Bahrain, too.
Plenty of other questions to be answered throughout the field, too. Can Sergio Pérez close up to Verstappen after a difficult debut for Red Bull. Will it be McLaren, Ferrari and AlphaTauri at the front of the midfield again, or can Alpine and Aston Martin move themselves forward after a difficult start to the season. Where will Williams be?
Anyway, first practice gets underway at 10am BST so we will be here for all of that hour and then we will return for second practice after lunch. Should be good, great to be back at Imola once more.