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Bottas sets the pace as Eifel weekend finally gets underway

NEWS STORY
10/10/2020

Ahead of today's - indeed the weekend's - sole practice session, the air temperature is 7.6 degrees C, while the track temperature is 12.1 degrees. It might be cold, but it's not raining, the skies are blue and the sun is shining. Indeed there is a - wait for it - 0% chance of rain.

With no running yesterday, and F1 having not raced here since 2013, we can expect the next hour to be extremely busy.

Despite the sunshine, the cool temperatures and the sheer amount of rain in recent days has left the track a little damp.

The lights go green and Grosjean leads the way, followed by Raikkonen, Sainz and Vettel. Hamilton is another early riser, the world champion clearly struggling for grip.

A mixture of all three compounds, though Perez is the only driver on softs.

Grosjean posts the first time of the weekend, a 38.594, but this is quickly beaten by Sainz (38.311).

Verstappen runs wide in Turn 4, the corner where the stewards are strictly enforcing the track limits this weekend, along with the chicane (Turns 13 and 14).

A 32.337 sees Perez go top, but Verstappen subsequently posts a 30.576.

Hamilton posts 34.678 and teammate Bottas a 35.809.

"Either the tyres are not working or we are over-balanced," suggests Sainz.

A 30.177 sees Albon go top, ahead of Ocon, Perez, Verstappen and Sainz.

Ten minutes in and only Vettel and Stroll have yet to post times.

Verstappen improves to 28.866.

Gasly improves to 8th but has his time deleted after he exceeded the track limits at Turn 4.

At this point, Racing Point announces that: "Lance Stroll is not feeling 100% this morning and will therefore not participate in FP3. His condition will be assessed after the session to evaluate whether he is fit to drive, at which point the team will confirm plans for Qualifying."

Verstappen, after 8 laps, reports that his rears (mediums) are "dropping off".

In quick succession, Magnussen, Leclerc, Sainz and Raikkonen have their times deleted. Hamilton has his deleted for cutting the chicane.

"OK Kimi, you can do two more laps..." "You have to speak more loud," replies the Iceman. "OK, I am shouting..." somewhat reminiscent of that old joke about "Lauda!"

A spin for Vettel at Turn 14, the German currently 19th on the board - of 19 - after having his previous best time deleted. Teammate Leclerc is currently 9th.

Ricciardo improves to fifth with a 29.273, as Verstappen remains quickest.

Norris goes sixth with a 29.402, as Vettel improves to 15th (33.263).

Just over twenty minutes in and drivers begin switching from mediums to softs, though Perez and Kvyat have done all their running thus far on the red-banded rubber.

Like Verstappen, a lot of drivers are unhappy with their rears.

"We need to talk about DAS," says Hamilton. Not Kevin, DAS.

Grosjean (softs) improves to 8th with a 30.442.

Incidentally, with an eye on the much cooler temperatures, Mercedes has repackaged the rear of the W11.

Ocon (softs) goes quickest in S1, as the qualifying sims get underway. He maintains the pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 27.634.

Latifi goes 8th with a 29.833 but is demoted when Raikkonen posts a 28.981 to go 5th.

"It's a beautiful track mate," says an unusually happy Grosjean.

Norris goes top with a 27.631.

Russell takes a long trip over the grass at Turn 14, briefly bringing out the yellows.

Ocon goes second (27.634), ahead of Sainz and Perez, only to be demoted when Ricciardo posts 27.392 to go top.

A 28.270 sees Vettel go sixth, while Leclerc goes fourth with a 27.783.

Quickest in the first two sectors, Verstappen stops the clock at 27.071.

As Albon begins his first flying lap, the Mercedes pair head out on fresh softs.

Bottas goes second (27.228), while Albon can only manage 9th (28.725), having had his 22.228 deleted.

Hamilton crosses the line at 27.189 to go second, 0.118s down on Verstappen, and 0.157s on his Mercedes teammate.

That said, a 26.968 from Bottas sees the Finn go top, with Albon posting 27.481 moments later to go fifth.

Despite going quickest in S2, a mistake in Turn 3 means that Hamilton fails to improve on his next hot lap.

Russell is currently 13th.

Meanwhile, there is excitement as Nico Hulkenberg is understood to have arrived at the circuit.

On fresh rubber, Bottas raises the bar with a 26.225.

A 27.167 sees Norris go third, leapfrogging Hamilton in the process.

Raikkonen improves to tenth with a 27.956.

Hamilton goes quickest in S1, as Latifi spins in the final corner. To compound his mistake the Williams driver is unable to steer his car back on to the track in one go and as a result the yellows wreck Hamilton's lap.

Indeed, replay reveals that Hamilton almost collected a Renault that had slowed as a result of Latifi's spin.

Leclerc goes second with a 26.681, with Vettel going fourth (27.038) moments later.

Hamilton goes quickest in S1, but he loses ground in the second sector. At the line he still manages to post 26.631 which puts him second.

As the clock ticks down, for reasons best known to themselves, Norris and Leclerc are battling for track position.

"Was that Carlos or Lando," enquires Leclerc.

The session ends. Bottas is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Vettel, Norris, Perez, Ricciardo, Albon and Gasly.

Ocon is eleventh, ahead of Kvyat, Sainz, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Magnussen, Russell, Giovinazzi and Latifi.

Check out our Saturday gallery from the Nurburgring, here.

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