Bottas outpaces Verstappen in first practice

Mugello has only previously staged F1 test events, but the Italian circuit was a welcome addition for drivers to the 2020 calendar as part of the changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday offered the 2020 grid their initial chance to sample the circuit through first practice, with Bottas leading Mercedes to the head of the timesheets.

After sitting fourth following the opening runs on the medium-compound tyre in FP1, Bottas was able to go fastest of all after switching to the softs.

A best lap time of 1m17.879s marked a new F1 track record at Mugello, breaking the existing benchmark of 1m18.704s set by Rubens Barrichello at a test for Ferrari in 2004.

It was enough to give Bottas top spot by 0.048s from Verstappen, who had been the early pace-setter on hards for Red Bull.

Charles Leclerc was able to make a strong start to Ferrari’s 1,000th grand prix weekend as he finished third overall, lapping just three-tenths slower than Bottas.

Leclerc is using a new chassis this weekend following damage sustained to his Ferrari SF1000 in the crash at Monza last weekend, as well as running a classic livery as part of the team’s celebrations at Mugello.

But teammate Sebastian Vettel continued to struggle for form, finishing a further one second off the pace in 13th place after reporting earlier in the…

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