Mercedes, Red Bull set for close battle again

PORTIMAO • Valtteri Bottas yesterday put Mercedes on top in first practice for tomorrow's Portuguese Grand Prix with the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez close behind.

The Finn bounced back from a collision at the previous Emilia Romagna race at Imola to clock a best lap of 1min 19.648sec on soft tyres with his rebuilt car.

Verstappen, a point behind seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton (44) in the standings, was just 0.025sec adrift despite complaining at one point that the car was "impossible to drive" due to tyre vibrations.

"What a joke, mate. I can't even see where I'm going, there's so much vibration," the Dutchman said over the radio. "I'll just visit the dentist after the weekend."

Perez was third and 0.198sec off the pace after spending the early part of the session in the garage.

Hamilton was unhappy with the balance of his car and ended up fifth on the timesheets, 0.319sec slower than Bottas, with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in fourth.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, who moved from Ferrari to Aston Martin in the off-season, livened up the session by stopping at the wrong garage when he came into the pits.

"Sorry for that. It had to happen at some point," chuckled the German over the radio. "I was wondering why nobody was there."

Separately, Hamilton has said he will likely join this weekend's widespread sports boycott of social-media platforms in a stand against online racism even though the motor sport is not joining in.

A coalition of football organisations, including the English Football Association, Uefa and the Premier League, will not post on their channels. Other major sports bodies, sponsors and broadcasters intend to join the blackout.

"I think I probably will follow and support this weekend," Hamilton said. "I think social-media platforms do need to do more to combat this and so I am fully supportive of the initiative."

F1 has said that while it supports the boycott, it intends to "continue to work with all platforms... to promote respect and positive values".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2021, with the headline 'Mercedes, Red Bull set for close battle again'. Subscribe