A collision between Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll – and Pierre Gasly leaping from a burning car – overshadowed Valtteri Bottas topping the time sheet in Friday’s practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Verstappen made contact with Racing Point’s Stroll that halted the action and required both men to visit the stewards, after Gasly’s Alpha Tauri suffered a fire that caused an earlier stoppage.
The crash came at turn one when the Dutchman appeared to pay little heed to his rival’s position as he went outside him.
Stroll’s car was sent spinning into the gravel.
In a race, it might have been seen as a racing incident with blame for both men, but Verstappen was adamant, on team radio, that the Canadian driver required an eyesight test.
“Is this f***ing guy blind?” he yelled. ”What the f*** is wrong with him?”
Video replays suggested that Verstappen may have thought Stroll was completing a flying lap and easing off to allow him to begin his own but Racing Point’s team chief Otmar Schafnaeur said Stroll was doing two successive fast laps.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner accepted the incident was probably “50-50”.
“If I’m absolutely honest, you can look at it and say both had a role to play. Max has assumed Lance was going to back out, while Lance may not have even been aware Max was there,” Horner said.
Stewards investigated the crash and took no action after the pair agreed the “incident was the result of a misunderstanding between them” and that “both could have contributed to avoid” the clash.
It came after Gasly’s Alpha Tauri burst into flames, forcing him to pull up.
He climbed out safely as the marshals moved in and the session was paused for 16 minutes.
Tempers flare as Stroll and Verstappen collide at Turn 1 💥#PortugueseGP 🇵🇹 #F1 pic.twitter.com/9xhTKe43dp
Bottas, who is 69 points adrift of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in the title race, maintained his habit of being “fastest on Friday” when he clocked a best lap of 1min 17.940sec to beat Verstappen by six-tenths of a second.
It was the sixth consecutive Grand Prix at which Bottas, who topped both of the day’s sessions, was fastest in opening practice.
Hamilton, who is hunting a record 92nd career win on Sunday, wound up eighth, 1.5 seconds off the pace, but without producing a competitive lap in an interrupted session that was twice stopped by red flags.
Norris was third ahead of Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari.
Gasly, who was unhurt after jumping out of his fiery car, was seventh ahead of six-time champion Hamilton, Esteban Ocon of Renault and Alex Albon, in the second Red Bull.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was well back in 13th and drew the stewards’ ire after failing to use the correct set of tyres in the second session.
A dramatic fire ended Pierre Gasly's FP2 in Portimao 🔥#PortugueseGP 🇵🇹 #F1 pic.twitter.com/RLd1jPBFkd
On a bright and cool afternoon in southern Portugal, the undulating track provided little grip and many challenges throughout the day.
Temperatures fell steadily in the afternoon session with two red flags interrupting the action.
The action began with Sainz spinning twice during a Pirelli prototype tyres test, in which Bottas was quickest and several drivers had lap times deleted for exceeding track limits.
Once the normal tyres were back in use, Leclerc went top before Ferrari teammate Vettel spun at Turn 14 and pitted.
Predictably, Bottas regained the initiative.
Meanwhile Mercedes CEO Ola Kallenius said that they would be ‘crazy’ to quit the sport as he sees interest in the sport booming, in particular among young people.
Teams have had to reflect on their plans ahead of next year’s implementation of a new binding commercial contract between the FIA, F1 and its teams — named the Concorde Agreement — and a complete set of new technical regulations.
The sport is also grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and environmental pressures on the automotive industry.
The car of Lance Stroll is removed from the track. (Photo by Jose Sena Goulao – Pool/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Kallenius said that F1’s planned introduction of a budget cap would help reduce costs for Mercedes and its racing team.
“We reassessed our Formula One commitment at the beginning of the year,” Kallenius told Germany’s Manager Magazin.
“The price for television rights is rising significantly. Interest in F1 is growing in Asia, Europe, South America … Everywhere. And the number of young fans is exploding, especially through social media and Esports.
“Should we throw that away? We would be crazy.”
– with AFP
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