Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the first free practice session of the 2020 British Grand Prix at Silverstone as Nico Hulkenberg finished ninth on his return to Formula 1. Hulkenberg turned out for Racing Point, replacing Sergio Perez who tested positive for COVID-19.
Hulkenberg’s announcement as Perez’s replacement was confirmed only hours before the start of FP1. The German was one of the first drivers out of the garage when the session began and finished ninth fastest on his return.
Verstappen donned soft tyres to show blistering pace for Red Bull, setting a time 0.474s quicker than Lewis Hamilton and another tenth ahead of Racing Point’s third-place Lance Stroll with around 30 minutes of the 90-minute session remaining. Verstappen’s time of 1:27.422s was a full seven-tenths faster than his teammate as Alex Albon finished fourth.
Ferrari’s struggles continued with Charles Leclerc finishing fifth with a time of 1:28.221. Vettel was meanwhile forced to sit out the session due to a technical problem. The four-time champion — who is leaving the team at the end of the season — did venture out on to the track in the first few minutes of the session but he failed to set a time and came back into the garage, and never reappeared on the circuit.
“We have detected something wrong with the intercooler system on (Vettel’s) car so we have to strip the car down and check, to be ready for FP2,” said Ferrari.