Lewis Hamilton faces a recovery job at Formula 1’s Turkish Grand Prix but opened the weekend with a commanding advantage at the front of the pack.
Hamilton set a time of 1:24.178s – a new track record – to finish over four tenths clear of title rival Max Verstappen.
Hamilton, though, will is set to drop 10 positions from wherever he qualifies after Mercedes opted to equip his W12 with a fresh Internal Combustion Engine.
Hamilton had hoped to get to the end of the campaign without taking a penalty but Mercedes has made the call to add another ICE to his pool of components.
As it is just the ICE for now, rather than an entire power unit, Hamilton’s penalty stands at 10 places.
Rapid lap times from the off
Istanbul Park’s 2020 weekend was notable for a lack of grip on a track that had been recently resurfaced, while cold and wet conditions on Saturday and Sunday accentuated matters.
Ahead of the 2021 round the surface was water-blasted while the tarmac itself has had an additional 11 months of natural evolution, despite a lack of activity at the venue since last year’s grand prix.
Pirelli has also moved one step softer with its choice of dry-weather compounds compared to last year’s event.
It took just four minutes of the session for the best time from the entire 2020 weekend to be beaten while a new track record was set shortly afterwards.
Hamilton’s benchmark was four seconds up on last year’s best as he also clocked a new track record, eclipsing the lap time set by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2005.
Red Bull’s new livery breaks cover
Red Bull’s RB16B appeared on track in the Honda tribute livery that it will run in Turkey, on the weekend in which Formula 1 should have been competing in Japan.
Verstappen classified second to Hamilton in the session but Sergio Perez complained of understeer as he finished at the root of the top 10.
Ferrari showed encouraging speed from the outset, with Charles Leclerc third and Carlos Sainz fifth, though the latter will start Sunday’s race from last after taking on a fresh power unit.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth for Mercedes, ahead of Sainz and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, who was the last driver to classify within a second of Hamilton’s benchmark, and impressively set his fastest time on the Hard tyres.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso were split by just a hundredth of a second in eighth and ninth respectively.
Fits like a glove
Five drivers – Hamilton, Sainz, George Russell, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel – ran a prototype glove at the behest of the FIA.
It is part of the FIA Safety Department’s drive to enhance heat transmission protection available from the gloves, while providing the required level of comfort and dexterity.
As it can only be evaluated effectively during track testing permission was granted for the gloves to be trialled by the quintet of drivers in first practice, as they have not yet been homologated.
There were no major incidents during the session with all 20 drivers racking up mileage.
Second practice is scheduled to begin at 15:00 local time