Hamilton leads TL1 shortened by Vettel car failure in Netherlands

The summary of Belgium’s non-GP Formula 1 (Video: GRAND PRIZE with Reuters)

After the non-GP, Formula 1 had practically a non-training. Or almost that. The session that opened the weekend of the Dutch GP, which returns to the Worlds calendar after 36 years, had little track time in practice for the riders in Zandvoort this Friday (3). This is because Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin car faced an engine problem, was stopped with the onset of fire at the Tarzan curve and, as it did not present safe rescue conditions due to the activated batteries, the removal of the bolide became much slower than expected. The session was stopped for over 30 minutes. When the track was cleared, the riders had only 6 minutes on the track. In a sequence of laps at qualifying pace, Lewis Hamilton was the fastest and overcame Max Verstappen by 0s097.

LEWIS HAMILTON;  NETHERLANDS;  FREE TRAINING 1;
Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the troubled TL1 in Holland (Photo: Mercedes)

The Ferrari duo finished third and fourth with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, respectively. Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, was fifth, followed by Fernando Alonso’s Alpine. Esteban Ocon, Alonso’s partner in the Anglo-French team, finished seventh. Antonio Giovinazzi reached eighth place with Alfa Romeo, ahead of Lance Stroll, from Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly, from AlphaTauri.

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Find out about free practice 1 of the F1 Netherlands GP

Since the beginning of the track activities this Friday, the track was very dirty and not very sticky, which made life very difficult for the riders in Zandvoort. In the first few minutes, several rounds were registered, such as with Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon. Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, had to deal with problems with the Mercedes engine that pushes his Aston Martin, while Pierre Gasly lost one of his car’s rear-view mirrors.

Without wasting any time, the drivers went to the track to learn in practice the secrets of the Dutch track, which returns to Formula 1 after 36 years. A very narrow circuit with 14 curves, two of them with a higher degree of inclination, and few stretches of straight.

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With the track very narrow and short and with practically every car on the track, another problem arose for the drivers in the session: heavy traffic on the Dutch circuit. Amidst all the difficulties, Valtteri Bottas took the lead of the session in the opening minutes, but was soon overtaken by Max Verstappen, the host, who spiked 1min12s850.

In principle, the drivers worked with medium and hard tyres. At that time, the differences were very close, and from the first, Verstappen, for George Russell, who appeared in 12th, there was a gap of only 0s821. Up front, the home owner was ousted in 0s076 by McLaren de Lando Norris, who spiked 1min12s679 to take the lead. While the Brit used medium tires on his fastest lap, the runner-up in the championship wore soft tyres.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL;  FORMULA 1;  ASTON MARTIN;
Sebastian Vettel activates the fire extinguisher during TL1 (Photo: DAZN/Reproduction)

With 17 minutes into the session, Vettel again faced engine problems and pulled up at the exit of the pit-lane at the Tarzan corner. The Aston Martin fireball started a fire and worried the four-time champion, who took the fire extinguisher and, like a real firefighter, activated the device to cool the car. Soon after, the test direction raised the red flag.

The rescue of the Aston Martin car took longer than usual and caused the session to stand still for many minutes. The bolide was there, stopped, but could not be touched because of the risk of shock. The green light, which usually stays on when the car is in safe condition to be touched, was off.

After 17 minutes of stopped training, professionals from the British team went to the circuit sector to isolate the car so that it could be safely removed.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL;  FORMULA 1;  ASTON MARTIN;
Electrified, Aston Martin car had to have its batteries deactivated (Photo: Reproduction)

Even after Vettel’s car was finally removed from the track, practice remained at a standstill, frustratingly for the Dutch crowd that filled the stands at Zandvoort. The session was only resumed when there were only 6 minutes left for the end of the session. In other words: enough time for, at most, two fast laps.

The drivers then returned to the track on soft tires for the meager simulations at qualifying pace. This amidst the intense traffic on the circuit.

The Ferrari duo took the lead with Carlos Sainz, with 1min11s950, and Charles Leclerc in second, 0s338 slower. Then Lance Stroll moved up to third, until the Mercedes duo took the lead with Valtteri Bottas and then Lewis Hamilton, who spiked 1min11s500. Verstappen, on the other hand, could not beat Red Bull rival’s cars and went third, 0s339 behind the leader.

But Verstappen insisted on the track and set off for another fast lap. The Dutchman faced a lot of traffic and was unable to overcome Hamilton, being 0s097 behind the opponent. Sainz was third, with Leclerc fourth and Bottas fifth. At the end of practice, faced with huge traffic, Ocon closed the way for Norris, who complained a lot about the Frenchman’s maneuver on the track.