When Max Verstappen’s Red Bull racer rolled to a stop in the early minutes of Free Practice 2 at Imola in Italy it denied anyone a clear picture of the latest situation in Formula One.
The new format for Friday running in F1, with only two one-hour sessions, means grand prix teams have to get through much more work in the early stages of a race weekend.
So Verstappen sacrificed crucial time with a broken driveshaft as, predictably, Valtteri Bottas completed his usual Friday performance by going top in both sessions for the Black Arrows.
Bottas only had a margin of four-hundredths over his team leader Lewis Hamilton in FP1, and it was down to one-hundredth in FP2, so the Mercedes-AMG pair were clearly on-message and setting the pace.
Verstappen had been a promising third in the opening session, but when he was forced to park after only 10 minutes the best his team mate Sergio Perez could manage was sixth for the day as Pierre Gasly ran third-quickest for AlphaTauri at the Italian team’s home race, just 15 kilometres from their race base.
Daniel Ricciardo was 10th in the morning but only managed 18th in the second session.
Imola is a gorgeous circuit and an old-school layout, with a big climb and an exciting plunge down the hill at the end of the lap, and most drivers were happy to be in Italy after the blandness of Bahrain at the season opener.
Verstappen was relatively happy despite the failure, although admitted he was uncertain of the final outcome in practice for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
“Of course it would have been better to have the session, but I don’t thinking missing running in FP2 is the end of the world as we know what we need to do tomorrow,” said Verstappen.
“The car felt alright in FP1 and it is difficult to say how the second session would have been, but we will still be able to look at the data and see what we can do better. We just have to focus on ourselves and make sure we get the best out of our package.”
And even Bottas was not making any predictions.
“We still don’t think we are the fastest car and we really need to improve on that on Saturday,” he said.
“The whole grid from midfield to the front looks very close. We didn’t see the best from Red Bull today but we’ll see that in Q3 tomorrow. No doubt they are going to be fast.”
But Gasly was clearly happy with his day, as he was backed by rookie Yuki Tsunoda in seventh as AlfaTauri emerges from the midfield.
“I think this has been one of our best Fridays as a team, P4 this morning and P3 this afternoon, and I was so close to the top guys,” he said.
“I’ve felt good in the car since the first lap and I managed to push pretty hard, as well as drive the way I wanted, so I think it’s been a successful day. We’ve continued to work hard to improve against our main rivals in the midfield and I think, so far, we’ve shown that the pace is good.”
And Ferrari, close to the front on home ground?
“I’m not quite there yet, but today was a good start to the weekend and we still have FP3 to fine tune everything ahead of Qualifying tomorrow,” said Carlos Sainz.
“The car is quick, the balance is good and I felt at ease immediately. Of course, it’s only tomorrow that we will find out the pecking order, because maybe someone hasn’t shown their full potential,” said Leclerc.
“The track is really great and I can’t wait to get back in the car tomorrow for qualifying, when I think a good result can be within our grasp.
Emilia Romagna Grand Prix
|6||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||01:16.4|
|9||Antono Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||01:16.5|
|10||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||01:16.7|
|14||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||01:17.0|
|15||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||01:17.1|
|17||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||01:17.3|