The first practice session at Imola for the Gran Premio Del Made In Italy E Dell'emilia Romagna 2021 finished with Valtteri Bottas setting the fastest time of 1:16.564s. Close behind him were Hamilton and Verstappen with the times of [time] and [time] respectively. The rest that completed the Top 10 of this session were: Leclerc, Gasly, Sainz, Alonso, Stroll, Latifi and Ricciardo.
We arrive at only our 2nd GP this season, after a long, 3 week break since the Bahrain GP that has seen its fair share of exciting things. For Imola itself this GP, although a regular format to everybody, is an unusual configuration, since in the season prior we only had one single practice session during the weekend, instead of the standard 3. This year thought we are back to normal, with 3 practice sessions, qualifying and race set up. We are once again coming back to this legendary F1 track, after it’s late addition to the calendar.
The session opened with Esteban Ocon setting the first time on the leaderboard, with 1:26.246s. He was soon pushed down by Hamilton and Bottas, with 1:21.421s and 1:20.345s respectively.
In the first 10 minutes of the session, the only drivers that didn’t set a lap time were: Tsunoda, Alonso, Mazepin, Leclerc and Schumacher. 40 minutes before the end of the session, the places in the top ten of the leaderboard seemed to shuffle mostly between the cars of Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari of Sainz and McLaren of Ricciardo. For a while, it was Carlos Sainz who topped the lap times, followed by Hamilton and Verstappen.
Half way through the session, the top 10 of the session were: Gasly, with the time of 1:17.470s followed by Sainz, Hamilton, Verstappen, Stroll, Ocon, Latifi, Bottas, Norris and Perez. We could have observed some work being done on the Aston Martin car of Sebastian Vettel, as well as some set-up changes for Valtteri Bottas and his Mercedes. By that time, the only driver that did not set up a lap time was Charles Leclerc.
The session was red flagged around 20 minutes before its end, after Sergio Perez was possibly involved in an incident with Esteban Ocon. Due to pretty substantial communication problems at the Imola track there was no proper information on what actually happened, even though it was a minor incident and no driver was injured (the red flag was just a result of the debris and cars on track). It appears that also the teams were possibly in the dark about what exactly happened, because there was no radio communication with the drivers as well. Hopefully by the time of FP2, we are all updated on what exactly happened, that caused the red flag.
Around ten minutes before the end of the session, we’ve got a green flag again, and Fernando Alonso was the first one to get on track after the pause. It was only then, after the session was green flagged again, that Leclerc got out on the track and set a lap time, that placed him just behind the top 10 at P11.
Beside the red flag, there were some minor issues during the session: Tsunoda, around 15 minutes in the session, got out on the gravel, but was able to recover and go back on track. Max Verstappen also had a small travel on the gravel, but managed to get the car on the track. Similar issue for Latifi closer to the end of the session, but he was also able to recover and go back on track. By the end of the session it was Mazepin having a spin once again (he already did by the beginning of the session) that led to a red flag, which didn’t really cause too much of a hassle due to the end of the practice anyway.
By the end of the session, the top 10 was: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Gasly, Sainz, Alonso, Stroll, Latifi and Ricciardo.