2021 British GP Practice 1 - Verstappen tops times, as Mercedes fall short. 

The first session of the weekend kicked off on the hottest weekend of the year so far, with many teams focusing on the impending qualifying session, happening just hours after the initial session. The new layout for this weekend meant that the drivers and teams lost an additional session before the race on Sunday, adding to the time lost due to the reduction in run times during practice from last season.

Upfront and fast

The early pace was set by home hero Lewis Hamilton, much to the elation of the sell-out 144,000 strong Silverstone crowd, in a direct juxtaposition to the last time the cars took to the track in Austria. As the Brit took to track, the crowd erupted into a roar, only dying down halfway through the lap.

Behind Hamilton, it was business as usual, with title rival Max Verstappen and teammate Valtteri Bottas taking up the second and third positions early in the session. It wasn't long before Verstappen's teammate, Sergio Perez got in on the action, taking the third-place position from Bottas not too long after. The Finn seemed to get into the groove after being displaced, as he picked up the pace to secure the second position, as the time hit the 45-minute mark.

The battle between the four would continue throughout the session, with the team's splitting strategy. It became apparent that Red Bull was running lower fuel when Verstappen went 1.6 seconds clear of Bottas on the same tires, showing that both teams have very different goals from this session.

Both Mercedes and Red Bull have brought floor upgrades to Silverstone, with Mercedes hoping to close the gap on Red Bull, whilst the Austrian team looks to claim another title. 

The battle for the midfield 

Both Alpine and Aston Martin showed renewed promise in the first half of the session, with all four of the teams' cars firmly into the top ten, Esteban Ocon being the highest place of the four in fourth place. It has been a downward trajectory ever since their surprise podium in Baku with Sebastian Vettel, however, they will be wanting to change their fortunes as they take to the track a short walk away from their HQ.

Likewise, Alpine will be looking to gain some pace for this weekend, no one more than Ocon, who was the only retirement in the last race at Austria, after the Frenchman managed to make contact at turn three on the hectic opening lap.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the first half an hour looked to be slightly more conservative for McLaren and Ferrari, with the two teams occupying positions 12th to 15th. All four cars were donning the hard compound of tires early in the session, with them coming into the pits for a setup change at the halfway point. After the setup changes, both teams shot up the leaderboard, finding themselves challenging the earlier faster drivers.

Separating the top two sets of four were the two Alpha Tauri's of Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, who were having a relatively quiet session, which was unusual for two drivers who are often setting the times alight on a Friday.

The final third

The final 20 minutes of the session was dominated by the fastest runs of the hour, with the likes of Red Bull donning the fastest set of tires, the red-walled soft tire, to further increase the gap to the rest of the field. The fastest non-soft runner of the field was the McLaren of Lando Norris, who after a traumatic experience earlier in the week at Wembley, looked back in his zone pretty quickly.

He was toppled quickly however by teammate Daniel Ricciardo who, on his tenth anniversary in F1 will be hoping for a much better weekend to help kick on with his new team. Norris would go second fastest shortly after however, proving the pace of the McLaren.

Before long Mercedes would also be using the soft tires, in an effort to compete with the Red Bull's and McLaren's. The Initial runs for the two 'Silver Arrows' seemed to fall short of the fastest two cars, with Hamilton going third and Bottas sitting in fourth, both behind Norris and Verstappen. Norris's lap looked more impressive as the soft tires drivers set their improved times, as the Brit had persisted with the medium tires.

The two Ferrari's would post a late challenge to Mercedes, with Charles Leclerc placing fourth and teammate Carlos Sainz placing fifth, with both cars 0.2 of a second behind Hamilton. However, no one could top Verstappen, with the session finishing with a top three of Verstappen, Norris, and Hamilton.


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