Valtteri Bottas is the quickest driver in the Portuguese GP FP1, ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

After a two-week-long break, Formula 1 returned for round 3 at Portimao for the Portuguese Grand Prix. In 2020 Lewis Hamilton took his record-breaking 92nd Grand Prix win at the track, celebrated by drivers and fans alike for its immense challenge. One single point is the difference between Hamilton and title rival Max Verstappen, with seven points the difference between Mercedes and Red Bull in the teams’ title. An outside chance at this round is McLaren, who was strong at Portimao in 2020, with Carlos Sainz even leading the first few laps with incredible pace.

This race is expected to be the real test of Red Bull, as the team was absolutely smashed by Mercedes in the 2020 round, so if Red Bull can be on the pace of Mercedes on Friday, the pressure may be on. Free Practice 1 is the session where the drivers dial into the cars, track and conditions. The cars will be on track a lot in the hour-long session to set up the cars for the race and understand the track, as the new surface is rubbered in compared to last year. Alfa Romeo had a slight driver change, as Callum Ilott replaced Antonio Giovanazzi for FP1.

The pit lane opened, and immediately cars were on the track. It was Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes first out, followed by the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, the latter armed with aero rakes on the rear. There was drama early on as a radiator fan from Carlos Sainz’ Ferrari was left at the pit exit, though quickly retrieved. Track limits were a factor from very early on in the session, with four lap times deleted in the first 10 minutes.

Leclerc had a moment at turn 14, with the rear end stepping out, causing a very brief yellow flag. With a quarter of the session gone, it was Bottas in front, but lap times weren’t representative as the teams were trying to get rid of a set of hard tires. Interestingly, neither Red Bull driver went out for a timed lap in the first 15 minutes, but when Verstappen did come out, he put a lap to go third right off the bat.

All of the cars were having trouble firing up the hard tires, and it was clear the first 40 minutes were about using up a set of the white-walled Pirelli tires. Sebastian Vettel had a slightly embarrassing moment in the pit lane as he pulled up in the McLaren pit box, instead of Aston Martin’s. Verstappen had a minor moment at turn 3, with a kick of oversteer almost sending him into the gravel.

At the halfway point, it was Bottas ahead by 0.3sec from Verstappen, with Hamilton in third and Ocon leading the midfield. Ricciardo was the first car to head out on the soft tire as drivers began to dump the hards used early on. Further down the field, Ferrari, McLaren, and Aston Martin were all separated by very little. Nikita Mazepin had a nasty lock-up at turn 3, then had problems on the power at turn 5, as did Perez.

All of a sudden, Russell put his Williams third on the soft tire, but he was unlikely to stay there as other drivers began soft tire push runs. Indeed he didn’t, as Pierre Gasly put his Alpha Tauri third not long after. With just 10 minutes to run, drivers were beginning to dial on the speed. Verstappen was complaining of vibrations, which could be seen in the onboard shots. Leclerc went third, but Sainz went off, getting a fistful of oversteer at turn 14.

The session then ran out. Perez went third ahead of Hamilton, who was suffering from graining on his front tyres. Leclerc was best of the rest in fourth, dropping Hamilton down to fifth.

The top 10 of the F1 Portuguese GP FP1:

PositionDriverTeam+sec
1V. BottasMercedes+-.—
2M. VerstappenRed Bull Racing+0.025
3S. PerezRed Bull Racing+0.198
4C. LeclercFerrari+0.236
5L. HamiltonMercedes+0.319
6P. GaslyAlphaTauri+0.796
7G. RussellWilliams+0.881
8L. NorrisMcLaren+0.987
9C. SainzFerrari+1.032
10E. OconAlpine+1.152

Journalist, writing various articles for ASN. MotoGP specialist and ASN's resident motorsports history nerd. Can generally be found screaming at stupid strategy choices while watching the tv.