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Hamilton sets early pace in truncated session


Ahead of the opening session of F1's highly anticipated return to Zandvoort, the air temperature is 18.1 degrees C, while the track temperature is 23.1 degrees. The risk of rain is 0%.

Understandably, there are no reserve drivers on duty this morning.

Other than the Orange Army, the big challenge facing drivers are the banked curves at Turns 3, 13 and 14 which are certain to put additional pressure on their necks and tyres.

Indeed, at Turns 13 and 14 the banking is twice as steep as at Indianapolis, leaving one hoping and praying that lessons have been leaned since 2005's debacle especially as the sport is only just beginning to recover from last weekend's debacle.

The lights go green and Sainz leads the way, followed by Leclerc, Raikkonen, Bottas and Tsunoda.

Overhead shots show large swathes of the Orange Army in the various stands.

As Verstappen heads out to wild applause and cheering, Tsunoda, sporting sensors at the front, spins at the exit of Turn 10.

In no time at all, all bar Russell are on track sporting a mixture of hards and mediums.

Sainz posts a 20.328 but this is soon eclipsed by Leclerc, Norris, Bottas and Gasly, who crosses the line at 15.301.

Running wide, Ocon takes to the escape road at the chicane at Turn 11.

Russell finally heads out to join his pals as Vettel reports an issue with his MGU-K.

Norris goes quickest with a 13.751, but is instantly demoted by Verstappen who stops the clock at 13.045.

"There's so much traffic," complains Stroll.

"I've lost the left mirror," reports Gasly after running wide on the banking at Turn 3.

Bottas goes top (13.021), ahead of Verstappen, Gasly, Ricciardo, Norris and Sainz.

As the drivers explore the limits and acquire data there are sure to be more mistakes over the course of the session.

Hamilton improves to sixth with a 13.598 as Verstappen ups the ante with a 12.850, before improving to 12.755.

Perez told he is losing out to his teammate at the apex to Turn 2 and the entry to Turn 3. Quite whether that accounts for the full 1.632s difference one cannot say.

Vettel stops at the end of the pitlane and climbs out of his smoking car. "Engine failure," he reports. Given a fire extinguisher he somehow manages to cover the whole rear of the car with foam.

The session is red flagged as there appears to be confusion as to how to deal with the smoking Aston Martin. Indeed, a frustrated Vettel throws one of the fire extinguishers to the ground.

With 38 minutes remaining, it's: Norris (12.679), Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Gasly, Alonso, Stroll, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Sainz.

The session resumes only to be red-flagged again moments later as the stricken Aston Martin hasn't been removed from the edge of the track As a truck arrives to remove the car, Vettel is still trying out various fire extinguishers.

To the frustration of the drivers and engineers, the clock continues ticking as the Aston Martin remains in situ, the problem being that the car is still 'live' and therefore a threat to anyone touching it. Aston Martin sends a number of its engineers out to make the car safe for recovery.

The red flag turns to yellow with under nine minutes remaining, and as the all-clear is finally given, with six minutes remaining, Raikkonen leads the way followed by his Alfa Romeo teammate.

As more drivers head out, all are sporting the red-banded softs.

In the pitlane the drivers head out very, very slowly in a bid to create some space, however, only a few of them have rejoined the track before Raikkonen arrives back on the scene having completed his out lap.

As drivers seek to get some clear air and others try to keep out of the way, it is pretty shambolic and unlikely to be very productive.

All bar Vettel and Tsunoda are on track.

Sainz goes quickest ahead of Leclerc, however, an 11.500 sees Hamilton go top.

Bottas goes second (11.738), ahead of Verstappen, Sainz and Alonso.

It is fast and frantic, Gasly races Bottas for track position.

As the chequered flag is waved, the screen is a mass of green but only one purple, as Sainz improves to third with an 11.601.

A misunderstanding, as Ocon seeks to overtake a slower car sees the Alpine driver force Norris momentarily off track.

A late improvement sees Verstappen improve to second, just 0.097s off Hamilton's pace.

A frantic final couple of minutes sees Hamilton quickest, ahead of Verstappen, Sainz, Leclerc, Bottas, Alonso, Ocon, Giovinazzi, Stroll and Gasly.

Norris is eleventh, ahead of Latifi, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Russell, Perez, Mazepin, Schumacher, Vettel and Tsunoda.

An interesting session - what there was of it - which sets us up nicely for the remainder of the weekend, though traffic is clearly going to be an issue in qualifying.

Check out our Friday gallery from Zandvoort, here.


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1. Posted by GordonG47, 03/09/2021 13:11

"F1 just located the other foot, aimed and pressed the trigger. *sigh*"

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2. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 03/09/2021 12:36

"So after the Spa debacle we now have a large portion of the session lost, just what the fans pay there money to see, cars sat in the pit lane, clock should have been stopped and todays schedule changed to suit, Ross and Co have still not learnt anything from a week ago."

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