It was Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who got his Dutch Grand Prix weekend off to the best possible start, going fastest in Free Practice 1 as Formula 1 returned to Zandvoort for the first time since 1985, ahead of home hero Max Verstappen and the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz – as the session was foreshortened by a 35-minute red flag period caused by a stoppage for Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.
As the drivers headed out onto the reworked 2.6-mile circuit, with F1 returning to the track after a 36-year absence, Yuki Tsunoda was the first to be caught out, spinning his AlphaTauri AT02 after just two minutes.
But it was Sebastian Vettel with the biggest problems in FP1, the German winding up P19 after running just six laps – during which he complained of an MGU-K issue – before pulling up with 16 minutes of the session gone after an “engine failure”, as he put it.
Vettel then acted as firefighter, as he grabbed an extinguisher to attempt to cool parts of his AMR21, as the session endured a 35-minute red flag period, as the car was recovered.
FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN DUTCH GRAND PRIX 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||1:11.500|
|2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||+0.097s|
|3 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari||+0.101s|
|4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||+0.123s|
|5 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||+0.238s|
With seven minutes to go in the session following Vettel’s red flag, there was then a mad scramble to complete soft laps around Zandvoort, with Hamilton stopping the clocks with a lap of 1m 11.500s to lead his first FP1 of the season.
The fans have flocked to Zandvoort for just one driver though. And Max Verstappen would finish just 0.097s behind his title rival in P2, as the Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc went P3 and P4, ahead of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
The Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were flying in formation, as they took sixth and seventh, as Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10.
McLaren’s Lando Norris had headed the running ahead of the red flag after his medium-shod run. But with Norris failing to improve on his soft tyre laps, and enduring a dip into the gravel at the old school Zandvoort track, the Briton ended up P11, ahead of the Williams of Nicholas Latifi.