Formula One: Verstappen fastest in British Grand Prix practice

Verstappen drives at Becketts Corner during the first practice session ahead of the British grand prix. PHOTO: REUTERS

SILVERSTONE, ENGLAND (REUTERS) - Red Bull's Formula One championship leader Max Verstappen was fastest by a hefty margin in practice for a new-look British Grand Prix on Friday (July 16) with home hero Lewis Hamilton only third on the timesheets.

On a sunny afternoon, with fans filling the grandstands on a day of action as Formula One experimented with a fresh format, the 23-year-old Dutchman produced a best time of one minute 27.035 seconds.

That was 0.779 quicker than McLaren's second-placed Lando Norris, who pipped Mercedes' seven times world champion by 0.001 in a big boost for a youngster still shaken by a mugging last Sunday at the Euro 2020 soccer final.

"Seven tenths? Where does that come from?," Hamilton asked his engineer over the radio when the team, who have brought some car upgrades to Silverstone, informed him of the gap to Verstappen.

The usual second Friday practice session has been replaced by qualifying for a new Saturday 17-lap sprint race that will decide the grid for Sunday's grand prix and award points to the top three.

Hamilton is seeking a record-extending eighth British Grand Prix victory this weekend but Verstappen and Red Bull have the momentum, with the youngster 32 points clear in the standings after nine rounds.

While Silverstone has been a fortress for champions Mercedes in recent years, Red Bull are on a roll and chasing a sixth successive win.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest with Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas fifth.

George Russell, the third Briton in action, was bottom of the timesheets with Williams.

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