Bottas tops times, as Ocon and Perez hit trouble - Imola GP 2021 FP1

In the first session of the weekend, it was Valtteri Bottas who took the top spot, at a track where he excelled last year, followed closely by teammate Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

It was an extremely eventful session, with many drivers struggling with the track, with a few finding the sand traps across the circuit.

Early stages 

It was a busy start to the first session of the weekend, with 14 of the 20 drivers all out on track within the first five minutes. The first time was set by the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, however, was quickly overtaken by the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, which would stand for just over a quarter of the session.

The drama was also quick to get underway at Imola, as the Haas of Nikita Mazepin found the sand trap, as the Russian driver lost control of his car on his out lap, managing to make it back to the pits. This was shortly followed by fellow F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda who would find another sand trap moments later in a similar fashion

Early laps were dominated with install laps, with drivers getting a feel for the track, having not raced here in almost 12 months, many drivers donning the hard tire to do so, with some transitioning onto the medium tires later in the session. 

Tumbling times and drivers 

As the session hit the halfway point, it was Pierre Gasly who sat at the top of the timings, with a 1:17.470 followed by both Sainz and  Hamilton, who trailed the Alpha Tauri by a little under half a second.

One car that we were yet to see in FP1 was the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver sat at the bottom of the timings for the large majority of the session, with little signs of movement from his side of the Ferrari garage.

As the session progressed, move drivers transitioned onto the soft compound tire, with the Williams and Alfa Romeo's making good use of the fastest compound. The Williams would find themselves 6th and 7th with a little under 25 minutes remaining, whilst the Alfa Romeos sat 11th and 12th, with Antonio Giovinazzi improving to 8th moments later.

With 20 minutes left in the session, the Red Flag came out, following perceived contact between Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. The first scene we saw was the Red Bull of Perez stricken on the track, with the back left tire hanging off of the car, Ocon's car showed little signs of damage at first, but at second glance the front right of the Alpine looked to be worse for wear.

Slow end to the session

The session came back underway with the Alpine of Fernando Alonso taking to the track on the soft tires, closely followed by both of the Ferrari's, giving Leclerc his first shot at the track. This second appearance on a track for Sainz would give him the chance to better his time, going quicker yet again. 

By the end of the session, the majority of the drivers were using the soft compound of tires, causing the times on track to tumble, and the battle for the top 10 to become even more frantic.

The session would finish under another red flag as Mazepin would put his Haas into the wall on the entry of the pitlane. He went into the final corner too hard and the car snapped, leaving him stricken on the side of the track.

Final Standings FP1 Imola 2021

  1. Valtteri Bottas - 1:16.564
  2. Lewis Hamilton +0.041
  3. Max Verstappen +0.058
  4. Charles Leclerc +0.232
  5. Pierre Gasly +0.324
  6. Carlos Sainz +0.324
  7. Fernando Alonso +0.893
  8. Lance Stroll +0.925
  9. Nicolas Latifi +1.175
  10. Daniel Ricciardo +1.205
  11. George Russell +1.302
  12. Kimi Raikkonen +1.319
  13. Lando Norris +1.400
  14. Sebastian Vettel +1.420
  15. Antonio Giovinazzi +1.494
  16. Sergio Perez +1.664
  17. Esteban Ocon +1.796
  18. Nikita Mazepin +2.259
  19. Mick Schumacher +3.174
  20. Yuki Tsunoda +3.217