Bottas again tops FP1, Leclerc a surprise third quickest for Ferrari at Mugello
Valtteri Bottas emerged quickest for the fifth consecutive first practice session as Formula 1 made its maiden official visit to Mugello.
The Mercedes driver has proven to be the master of FP1 so far this season, and ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix that trend continued.
Coming into the weekend all the drivers had expressed excitement at visting the circuit for the first time, believing it would prove to be spectacular, particularly for qualifying, even if overtaking would be at a premium on a Sunday.
The track boasts a kilometre-long straight, with cars reaching speeds of 200mph, and is followed by a fast, flowing, undulating circuit through its 15 corners.
Bottas emerged quickest again on a Friday morning, with a time of one minute 17.879secs, edging Red Bull's Max Verstappen by just 0.048s.
On the occasion of Ferrari's headline-making 1,000th grand prix, there was a major surprise with Charles Leclerc finishing third on the timesheet.
It remains to be seen whether Ferrari can continue such form over the weekend, or if Leclerc was sent out with just a splash of fuel in the tank to at least provide a degree of positivity following the disastrous results of the last two races.
Running with a beautiful one-off burgundy livery as a throwback to the first of the team's cars, the 125 in 1950, Leclerc posted a time of 1:18.186s to finish just three-tenths of a second behind Bottas.
As for team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who has now been confirmed as Aston Martin driver from 2021, the four-time F1 champion declared himself "not happy" with his car and finished only 13th, 1.388s adrift of Bottas, and a second down on Leclerc.
Clearly, FP1 was more of a sighter for all the teams given its maiden visit, so for Lewis Hamilton finishing fourth and half a second behind Bottas will not be seen as a drama at this early stage.
Pierre Gasly, fresh from his maiden grand prix triumph in Italy on Sunday, maintained his fine form with a time good enough for fifth fastest, nearly eight-tenths of a second off the pace.
Renault's Esteban Ocon and Gasly's AlphaTauri team-mate Daniil Kvyat were the only other drivers to finish within a second of Bottas.
Racing Point duo Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez were surprisingly down in 18th and 19th, just under two seconds off the pace, albeit on the hard tyre compared to 16 of the 17 drivers ahead of them who were all on softs. Stroll also had a brake issue on his RP20 that confined him to the garage early on.
Williams' Nicholas Latifi brought up the rear, 2.155s behind Bottas, and also on the hard compound.
The Canadian endured a tricky session, spinning late on and collecting an €800 fine for speeding in the pit lane, clocking a relatively high 87.4kph, with the limit at 80kph.
I'd be more surprised by Ferrari going badly at their own test track. If anyone knows how to set up a car there it has to be them. And you'd expect their present and former drivers to know the track better than anyone else. We'll see if they start going backwards in FP2, FP3 and qualifying.
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