It was rush hour at the start of the first free practices with cars waiting in line at the pit exit for the lights to turn green. Both McLarens led the line, which was the only time Stoffel Vandoorne was on track, as the Belgian did not even set a lap time in the whole session.
A bunch of young drivers were driving in FP1; Alfonso Celis took over for Esteban Ocon at Force India, Antonio Giovinazzi replaced Romain Grosjean at Haas, Sean Gelael drove Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso and Charles Leclerc was at the wheel of Marcus Ericsson's Sauber.
Although many cars went out on track at the very start of the session, the first lap time was set 12 minutes later by Antonio Giovinazzi. His lap was 1:27.318. It took ten more minutes for the next lap time to be set, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas the one to do it.
The track was very slippery, with Kimi Räikkönen and Alfonso Celis being only some of the drivers to spin, and Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Brendon Hartley made visits to the trackside grass. Celis’ spin was more destructive than others. He collided with the wall in the second last corner causing a red flag with 30 minutes to go. This was sad for Celis as it is his home GP, and unfortunate for Esteban Ocon, whose car will had to be rebuilt for FP2 in a hurry as the back end of the car had broken. The red flag lasted for eight minutes costing valuable time for the teams.
Valtteri Bottas drove well in first practice, topping the table ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton. Both Red Bulls, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo's, were in front of the two Ferrari, potentially spelling trouble for the Prancing Horse.
The results of Free Practice 1:
1. Valtteri BOTTAS – Mercedes – 1:17.824
2. Lewis HAMILTON – Mercedes – 1:18.290
3. Max VERSTAPPEN – Red Bull – 1:18.395
4. Daniel RICCIARDO – Red Bull – 1:18.421
5. Sebastian VETTEL – Ferrari – 1:18.586
6. Kimi RAIKKONEN – Ferrari – 1:19.008
7. Sergio PEREZ – Force India – 1:19.240
8. Fernando ALONSO – McLaren – 1:19.346
9. Felipe MASSA – Williams – 1:19.443
10. Nico HULKENBERG – Renault – 1:19.552
11. Carlos Sainz – Renault – 1:19.554
12. Lance STROLL – Williams – 1:19.772
13. Kevin MAGNUSSEN – Haas – 1:20.644
14. Pascal WEHRLEIN – Sauber – 1:20.971
15. Antonio GIOVINAZZI – Haas – 1:21.269
16. Charles LECLERC – Sauber – 1:21.446
17. Sean GELAEL – Toro Rosso – 1:21.639
18. Brendon HARTLEY – Toro Rosso – 1:21.747
19. Alfonso CELIS – Force India – 1:22.342
20. Stoffel VANDOORNE – McLaren – no time
Stoffel Vandoorne was yet again the first one to get out on track, this time alone. Both Haases, Toro Rossos and Force India’s Esteban Ocon later followed him, with Grosjean spinning at the beginning of the final straight. This caused a huge flat spot, which destroyed the tyre and its debris broke a part of Grosjean’s car. A red flag was issued because of the debris on track on the first straight, lasting about ten minutes.
While leaving for the track after the red flag, Stoffel Vandoorne stopped at the pit exit complaining his car was going sideways. He was then pushed back to the garage, coming back to the track after about ten minutes. The other McLaren of Fernando Alonso was the first one to put in a lap time with the ultrasofts. He did a decent 1:19.235. Max Verstappen drove a 1:18.808 to bump the Spaniard from the top.
The track was still quite slippery; Lewis Hamilton lost control in turn 11 and was lucky not to hit the wall. The Briton destroyed his supersofts leaving only one unused set for Sunday, which means he will not have data on it from FP2 and will have to rely on the data from Bottas’ car. Hamilton finally posted a lap time after the first 30 minutes of practice. He shot up to first place with a 1:18.077 on the ultrasofts.
Sebastian Vettel had a problem, complaining that “something had burst” and that “it felt like acid on his seat”. Most likely, this was the extinguisher which was Vettel’s guess as well.
After the first laps with the ultrasofts, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was at the top of the pack with a lap of 1:17.801. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel followed him a quarter of a second behind. Verstappen overtook Vettel on his second lap to keep Ferrari away from the top three.
Not much happened at the final part of the session. Most drivers were just working on their race stints with various tyres. Max Verstappen however ended the session early as he did in FP1. It’s understood the Dutchman had a problem with his engine, but as it is not his race engine it will not have an effect on his racing this weekend.
The results of Free Practice 2:
1. Daniel RICCIARDO – Red Bull – 1:17.801
2. Lewis HAMILTON – Mercedes – 1:17.932
3. Max VERSTAPPEN – Red Bull – 1:17.964
4. Sebastian VETTEL – Ferrari – 1:18.051
5. Kimi RAIKKONEN – Ferrari – 1:18.142
6. Valtteri BOTTAS – Mercedes – 1:18.299
7. Fernando ALONSO – McLaren – 1:18.508
8. Sergio PEREZ – Force India – 1:18.728
9. Nico HULKENBERG – Renault – 1:18.775
10. Esteban OCON – Force India – 1:18.822
11. Carlos SAINZ – Renault – 1:19.060
12. Felipe MASSA – Williams – 1:19.206
13. Brendon HARTELY – Toro Rosso – 1:19.423
14. Lance STROLL – Williams – 1:19.524
15. Stoffel Vandoorne – McLaren – 1:19.844
16. Pascal WEHRLEIN – Sauber – 1:20.306
17. Kevin MAGNUSSEN – Haas – 1:20.318
18. Marcus ERIKSSON – Sauber – 1:20.362
19. Pierre GASLY – Toro Rosso – 1:21.745
20. Romain GROSJEAN – Haas – 1:25.526