Ashen skies and spots of rain in FP1 did nothing to dampen collective spirits as Formula 1 cars returned to the track together for the first time in 126 days. And, amidst the glorious chorus of V6 engines, Mercedes rose to the occasion with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas topping the session ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton’s time of 1m 04.816s was set on soft tyres, as were those of the next six in the standings. It was a powerful statement for the reigning champion, returning to F1 at the top and beating last year’s FP1 time by 0.022s, but not quite as powerful as his W11 car’s striking black livery to show the team’s commitment to diversity and anti-racism.
Bottas finished 0.356s off his team mate’s pace, both drivers still using their intriguing DAS – Dual Axis Steering system – to trim precious milliseconds off their laptimes after the device made its debut in pre-season testing.