Max Verstappen fronted a Red Bull 1-2 during opening practice for Formula 1’s return to Turkey, with drivers struggling for grip at Istanbul Park.
Verstappen’s best time, a 1:35.077, was set on Hard tyres during the closing stages as he finished two-tenths clear of team-mate Alexander Albon.
Several drivers suffered low-speed spins during the session due to the limited grip being offered by the Istanbul Park surface.
Conditions were so difficult that Verstappen’s pace-setting time was over 10 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s pole-setting time from Formula 1’s last visit in 2011.
Struggling with Cold Turkey
Drivers struggled for grip throughout much of the 90-minute practice session as Formula 1 cars appeared on the track for the first time since 2011.
Istanbul Park was recently resurfaced while an initially damp and cold track accentuated the situation further, particularly on the Hard tyres, with air temperature as expected for mid-November.
A handful of drivers suggested it was worse than driving on ice, with Kevin Magnussen quipping it was akin to grass, and the session was even briefly halted when Charles Leclerc helplessly slid into the pit entry bollard.
Pacesetter Verstappen suffered a slow-speed spin through Turn 9, as did Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, while Pierre Gasly, Daniil Kvyat and Nicholas Latifi all wound up facing the wrong way during the session.
A large field spread
Times were fairly meaningless during a 90-minute session in which the lack of grip dominated talk.
Over 14 seconds separated first to last, with World Champion Lewis Hamilton only joining the action late on, classifying in 15th position, five seconds off the pace.
Ferrari finished third and fifth, Leclerc in front of Sebastian Vettel, the duo split by Gasly, with the other AlphaTauri of Kvyat in sixth.
Lando Norris, celebrating his 21st birthday, was seventh overall, as Antonio Giovinazzi, Bottas and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10, the Renault driver 3.3s behind his former F3 rival up front.
George Russell, who finished last, was 14.1 seconds off the pace, with Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz also trailing Verstappen by double digit number of seconds.
Sainz suffers electrical issue
The only driver to encounter major drama in the session was McLaren’s Sainz.
The Spaniard had to return to the pit lane at slow speed owing to an electrical issue and upon returning to the track made it only to Turn 7 before stopping.
Sainz did not re-appear during the session and finished with only 12 laps completed – level with Hamilton at the bottom of the mileage charts.
Second practice for the Turkish Grand Prix will begin at 15:00 local time.
|1||M. VERSTAPPEN||Red Bull||1:35.077||29|
|2||A. ALBON||Red Bull||1:35.318||+0.241||27|
|8||A. GIOVINAZZI||Alfa Romeo||1:37.503||+2.426||21|
|12||S. PEREZ||Racing Point||1:38.612||+3.535||22|
|13||L. STROLL||Racing Point||1:39.484||+4.407||21|
|16||K. RAIKKONEN||Alfa Romeo||1:41.035||+5.958||23|