Ocon bolted on the medium tyres and was the first out on track for the opening minutes of the session.
Both Aston Martins ventured onto the track along with both Ferraris. Hamilton followed but hit problems early on, reporting that his front tyres were vibrating to the team over the radio.
Fastest times were exchanged at the top of the timing screen between the Alpine, Ferrari and Aston Martin before Verstappen set a fastest time of 1m28.963s with Leclerc slotting into second fastest, missing out on the top spot by 0.094s.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was still struggling with the Mercedes, continuing to lock up multiple times on the soft tyres. Russell was sitting fifth fastest in the first ten minutes.
There was no sign of Williams, Hass or McLaren on track for the first 15 minutes with McLaren sending Norris and Piastri out onto the circuit as Perez sent his first fastest time of the session, Alonso slotted into third on the medium compound.
Verstappen responded to Perez on the following lap as he reclaimed the top spot on the timing screen with just under 20 minutes of the session complete. Leclerc split the two Red Bulls, but 0.6s off Verstappen’s time.
Albon had a moment at Turn 17, going off the track and quickly rejoining after struggling to get his Williams stopped.
Meanwhile, Alonso locked up heavily and screeched into the run-off area but avoided the barrier at Turn 7.
Verstappen continued to improve on his fastest lap time throughout the first half of the session while a number of the drivers underwent set-up tweaks.
Sainz improved to second fastest while Perez was unable to respond to the pair with 20 minutes of the session remaining and remained in the top three until the final minutes of the session.
Russell was then reporting similar problems to Hamilton, saying over the radio to the Mercedes engineers “lots of vibrations through the steering wrack at high speeds.”
However, for Hamilton, his pace seemed to be improving somewhat as he set the fifth fastest time with under 15 minutes of the session remaining. But still over the radio declaring: “We seem to be losing a lot more on the straights.”
The times were tumbling in the final minutes with the midfield shaken up continuously as the session came to a close.