A session that began with downpour, ended in dry conditions allowing a late flurry of dry tyre attempts which reshuffled the timings, but meant little could be taken from FP1.
Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris capitalised on the dry track and finished the session second and third for McLaren, with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat also impressing in sixth.
Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were running brand new internal combustion engines in FP1, with Max Verstappen, Norris and Pierre Gasly with power unit changes which mean grid penalties for the Red Bull, McLaren and Toro Rosso respectively.
Time to adjust to the treacherous conditions on a drenched track in the early stages was essential, as shown by Vettel, who on his first run left the pitlane and ran wide onto the run-off, with Norris following a similar route prior to Turn 1.
Turns 1 and 2 continued to prove troublesome throughout the session with practically every driver failing to make the corner at one point in the session.
Another red flag!
The tyres were evidently lacking in grip and on the slippery exit of Parabolica, Kimi Raikkonen got on the power too early and sent his Alfa Romeo skidding into the gravel and clipping the barrier for good measure causing a red flag.
Sainz escaped a similar spin and kept his McLaren out of the wall at Ascari, controlling the car after mounting the exit kerb.
Moments after the initial red flag, a second was waved after Sergio Perez’ session ended early as the Racing Point had a similar spin to Sainz, though his fortunes were very different, clattering the barriers and damaging his front and rear wing in the process.
The red flags kept coming as Gasly’s Toro Rosso was beached on the kerb in Turn 1 midway through the session, but the Frenchman was rescued by the marshals who pushed him free and later in the session he set the tenth fastest time behind his teammate in sixth.
Low grip, high risk
Verstappen finished the session in seventh place and blamed the “hard” intermediate tyres for why the drivers kept spinning.
Mercedes opted to abstain from the session until the rain reduced slightly amid drivers spinning at an alarming rate, with Lewis Hamilton setting the fourth fastest time on slicks late in the session.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas finished the session in ninth, surviving a late scare in Turn 1 and struggling in the tricky conditions along with most drivers getting caught out once or twice on the damp tarmac.
After receiving a grid penalty for a brand-new power unit this weekend, Norris was keen to get a feel for the car in the tricky conditions preparing for a race with a relatively high chance of rain, as the Brit took advantage with several long-runs at the start of the session.
First practice results:
1. Charles Leclerc
2. Carlos Sainz
3. Lando Norris
4. Lewis Hamilton
5. Alexander Albon
6. Daniil Kvyat
7. Max Verstappen
8. Sebastian Vettel
9. Valtteri Bottas
10. Pierre Gasly
11. Antonio Giovinazzi
12. Lance Stroll
13. Daniel Ricciardo
14. Kevin Magnussen
15. Nico Hulkenberg
16. Romain Grosjean
17. Robert Kubica
18. George Russell
19. Sergio Perez
20. Kimi Raikkonen