Sports Desk, Oct 23 (efe-epa).- Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas turned in the best performance in Friday’s practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix at the Algarve International Circuit in Portimao.
After being forced out of the Eifel Grand Prix by a problem with his car’s power unit, the Finn is anxious not to fall further behind teammate Lewis Hamilton in the driver standings.
The British six-time champion, whose triumph in the Eifel event allowed him to match the legendary Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix wins, has 230 points after taking the top spot in seven of the season’s first 11 races.
Bottas, with two victories and four second-place finishes, has 161 points, followed by Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull), who is on 147 points.
While F1 has held testing in Portimao and the track has hosted lower-division races, this year marks its debut as a Grand Prix venue and drivers’ lack of familiarity with the circuit was in evidence Friday.
Early in Free Practice 1, Spaniard Carlos Sainz (McLaren) said over the radio that the track was slippery, shortly before Verstappen experienced the day’s first spin.
With a best lap of 1:18.410, Bottas was first in FP1, 0.339 seconds faster than Hamilton.
FP2 was interrupted twice by red flags. The first occasion was when Frenchman Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri burst into flames.
It took race marshals about a minute to snuff out the blaze and the session resumed, only to be halted again by a dramatic crash involving Verstappen and Canada’s Lance Stroll (Racing Point).
The Dutch driver managed to complete the session with the second fastest lap, followed by Briton Lando Norris (McLaren), while Leclerc was fourth and Sainz took the fifth spot.
The other Ferrari driver, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Germany, was sixth. Gasly overcame his setback at the start of FP2 to claim seventh place and Hamilton dropped from second to eighth.
Rounding out the top 10 were France’s Esteban Ocon (Renault) and Thai driver Alex Albon.
“It’s been a good day today,” Bottas said. “The sun was shining, this is a great track for driving. It could definitely be worse! It was quite slippery out on track, it reminded me a lot of when we went to Sochi or Austin for the first time, and we drove on the new tarmac there. This type of tarmac is tricky in terms of getting grip. Once you lose the grip, you can drop the car quite quickly, and I think that’s the reason why we have seen so many spins today.”