The opening session of the weekend has been and gone at Imola, with one hour of running completed by the drivers and teams on the 4.9km track.
Mercedes finished the morning at the top of the timesheets, with Valtteri Bottas in P1 and Lewis Hamilton in P2 – followed by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in P3.
There were a number of spins early on in the session by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, Nikita Mazepin in the Haas, and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
We saw some noticeably fast action from Ferrari at the start of this session which saw them run at a similar pace with Mercedes and Red Bull for a moment – Carlos Sainz temporarily topped the timesheets with a 1:17.682s.
At the halfway mark, it was 10th fastest for Sergio Perez, with team-mate Max Verstappen fourth, running .4s off the lead.
AlphaTauri was showing good pace in the hands of Pierre Gasly during the first free practice session, the AT02 going fastest with 30 minutes to go – a couple of tenths clear of Sainz’s SF21.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩 Checo has picked up some damage and his session is over. Back to the garage to get him up and running again for FP2 🔧👊 #ImolaGP pic.twitter.com/zd481bBeDj
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) April 16, 2021
With just over 20 minutes left, the session was brought to a halt, after footage showed Perez losing his Red Bull through one of Imolas fast right-handers, his left rear tyre in ribbons, followed by the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, marking an end to both of their FP1 sessions – the incident will be investigated later this morning.
Christian Horner, on the pit wall, told Sky Sports; “I’ve only had it from the driver’s perspective, but it sounds like Ocon was on a slow lap, Sergio was on a flying lap, and there’s been contact between the two guys into that corner.
“So that’s all I can say, I’ve only heard it second hand from the driver.”
RED FLAG 🔴
The session is halted as Sergio Perez has a problem with his rear left wheel – and Esteban Ocon suffers collateral damage 👀
Both are out of their cars and their FP1 is over #ImolaGP 🇮🇹 #F1 pic.twitter.com/aZKrVqdAGm
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 16, 2021
With just over 10 minutes remaining, the cars returned to the track – led by Carlos Sainz crossing the line in 1:17.296s.
However, as the session ended, the Spanish Ferrari driver was pushed down to P6 behind the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly – both finishing in 1:16:888s.
It was a one-two finish for the Mercedes duo on the soft Pirellis, with Bottas at the top of the timesheets followed by Hamilton just .041s behind.
FP1 at Imola ✅
It's looking close out there! Back for more, later today 👊 pic.twitter.com/vmm7CysTmO
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) April 16, 2021
Max Verstappen in the RB16B was third fastest – 0.058s off the leading Mercedes, and followed by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in 4th.
Meanwhile, Mazepin finished the session as he began, spinning on his way into the pits, and finished out the morning 18th fastest, followed by Mick Schumacher in P19 and Yuki Tsunoda in P20.
After an investigation into this morning’s incident between Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, the stewards have decided there will be no punishment for either driver.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the stewards explained; “Ocon slowed before Turn 5 in order to let Perez by, as well as moving entirely to the inside of the turn,” read the FIA statement.
“Perez was on a fast lap. The two cars reached the apex at the same time and just barely touched wheels.
“In the end, both drivers agreed in the hearing that it was an unfortunate miscommunication of timing between them, not helped by the fact that both drivers had limited or no communications with their teams at the time.
“Both drivers agreed that neither was at fault.”
Here are the full results of FP1: