ISTANBUL: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fastest in Turkish Grand Prix practice yesterday while Lewis Hamilton slammed the slippery surface ahead of a race that could crown him Formula One champion for a record-equalling seventh time.
The times at the Istanbul Park circuit, hosting a Formula One race for the first time since 2011, were largely meaningless.
The combination of cold November temperatures and a recent resurfacing left all drivers spinning and struggling for grip.
Verstappen lapped in one minute 35.077 seconds in the morning, more than 10 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s 2011 pole position time for the same team, before lowering it to 1:28.330 in the afternoon.
“I think we are all still about five seconds off where we should be on this track. I hope it’s not going to rain because then we may actually need spikes,” said Verstappen.
Thai team mate Alexander Albon, whose future at the team remains uncertain, was second in the opening session but Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was best of the rest after lunch.
Dominant Mercedes moved back up the timesheets, with Valtteri Bottas third fastest by the end of the day and Hamilton fourth.
The Briton, who leads sole title rival Bottas by 85 points with four races to go, was 0.85 seconds off Verstappen’s pace.
“It was a bit of a disaster today, to be honest,” said Hamilton.
“This track is such a fantastic circuit and I really don’t fully understand when they spend millions to re-do a surface... they could have just cleaned it maybe instead of waste all the money.
“The tyres aren’t working and it’s like an ice-rink out there,” added the Briton. “It’s terrifying the whole way around. It’s almost like there’s wet patches all over.”
Bottas said his experience of winter rally driving on snow and ice of Lapland had helped.
“It was actually quite far away initially from the normal driving style we’re used to in Formula One,” said the Finn. “I had really fun, just playing around. It was really enjoyable.”
Vettel, the last winner in Turkey and now in his final few races for Ferrari before joining Aston Martin (Racing Point) next season, was fifth and eighth in the two sessions.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz stopped by the side of the track in the first session after earlier suffering an electrical problem, but was 14th in the second. His team mate Lando Norris, celebrating his 21st birthday, was seventh and 10th.
Williams driver George Russell was set to receive a grid penalty for exceeding the allowed number of engine parts for the season.
The first session was red flagged within minutes of the start after Leclerc slid into a bollard marking the pit lane entry.
Track workers were earlier seen chasing a stray dog that was reported to have been caught before any cars ventured out onto the track.
The race weekend is being held behind closed doors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.