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Max in P2 after first and only free practice at Imola: 'Good start'

Published on 31 October 2020 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen finished the free practice for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix in second position. The Dutchman did 39 laps in the one-and-a-half-hour session, in which he set his fastest time of 1:15.023 on the soft tyre. For a long time Verstappen was in the lead, but Lewis Hamilton was eventually the fastest with a 1:14.726. Valtteri Bottas completed the top three.

“It was a good start”, says Max after the session on the Autodrome Enzo e Dino Ferrari. “The car felt good, so that helps a lot. It is an enjoyable track to drive, very happy with that. I thought the track would be a bit narrow, but it is fine.”

Looking ahead to qualifying, Max says: “We have to see what we have to do for qualifying, but no major problems.” There is not a lot of room to improve: “That is difficult. It is hard to beat Mercedes, but we are not too far behind, hopefully that will be the same in qualifying.”

It is 10:00 when the lights on the end of the pitlane turn green for the start of the session. Because there is not a lot of time to find the right setup for the cars, all drivers come out on track within the first ten minutes. Max Verstappen leaves the pit box on the white coloured hard tyres and starts his race weekend with a 1:23.319. After fifteen minutes the Dutchman already improved that time to a 1:16.228, which puts him in first position. Everyone, besides Daniil Kvyat and both Williams, is on the hard compound tyre.

Max returns to the pitlane after a stint of thirteen laps. The top six is at that time formed by Verstappen (1:15.912), Pierre Gasly (+1.001), Charles Leclerc (+1.226), Lewis Hamilton (+1.285), Daniil Kvyat (+1.368) and Carlos Sainz (+1.415).

After almost half an hour, Valtteri Bottas takes over the lead by setting a 1:15.783 on the medium tyres. Verstappen comes back out five minutes later, this time on the red soft tyres. In his first attempt he sets a 1:15.338, taking back first position from the Mercedes driver. After a cool down lap the Dutchman goes again, but he has to abort because of a little mistake. Also his next attempt is not perfect, after which Max returns to the team.

Half way through the session the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver still has the fastest time, but Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas keep the gap to P2 and P3 within half a second. The latter is on his way to set a new personal best time on the soft tyre. At the end of the lap the Finn sets a 1:15.378. Just four hundredths of a second behind Verstappen.

Later Bottas improves his time to a 1:15.218, but the Mercedes driver is quickly sent back to second position by Max, who sets a 1:15.023 on a fresh set of soft tyres. Hamilton is also on a stint on the red coloured rubber. With half an hour left on the clock the six-time world champion takes first position by setting a 1:14.726.

The last thirty minutes of the session revolve around long runs, so the ranking mostly stays the same. Verstappen does in his first stint on the soft tyres four timed laps (1:20.049, 1:19.749, 1:19.312 and 1:19.574). After a short visit to the pitlane the Dutchman changes to the hard tyre. He does ten laps, mostly in the high 1:18’s and low 1:19’s. Lewis Hamilton is the fastest with a 1:14.726. Max Verstappen (+0.297), Valtteri Bottas (+0.492), Pierre Gasly (+0.907), Charles Leclerc (+0.962) and Daniel Ricciardo (+1.113) form the top six.

Contest GP at Imola: win a 1:2 scale model of the helmet of Max Verstappen!

Results first free practice Emilia-romagna:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:14.726 45
2Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda1:15.023+0.297s38
3Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes1:15.218+0.492s46
4Pierre GaslyGASAlphaTauri Honda1:15.633+0.907s45
5Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:15.688+0.962s39
6Daniel RicciardoRICRenault1:15.839+1.113s31
7Esteban OconOCORenault1:15.945+1.219s43
8Daniil KvyatKVYAlphaTauri Honda1:15.966+1.240s46
9Alexander AlbonALBRed Bull Racing Honda1:16.061+1.335s40
10Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:16.082+1.356s41
11Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:16.109+1.383s41
12Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:16.167+1.441s39
13Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:16.550+1.824s41
14Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1:16.560+1.834s41
15Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:16.564+1.838s32
16Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault1:16.671+1.945s44
17Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:16.684+1.958s42
18George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes1:16.780+2.054s42
19Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:17.060+2.334s44
20Nicholas LatifiLATWilliams Mercedes1:17.779+3.053s28