Bottas heads up Mercedes 1-2 in opening British GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas continued his impressive recent form by topping the opening Formula 1 practice session for the British Grand Prix, heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes at Silverstone on Friday morning.

Bottas moved into the thick of the F1 title fight with his second career victory in Austria last weekend, and arrived at Silverstone on Thursday keen to carry the momentum through the halfway point in the season.

Bottas and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton comfortably led proceedings through first practice as lap times tumbled, both lapping below last year’s pole time thanks to the new, high-downforce cars for 2017.

A fastest time of 1:29.106 gave Bottas P1 by 0.078 seconds ahead of Hamilton at the top of the timesheets, giving Mercedes a boost heading into the remainder of the weekend.

Red Bull emerged as Mercedes’ closest challenger through FP1 as Max Verstappen finished half a second off Bottas in P3, although not without an issue trying to pit early in the session (below). Teammate Daniel Ricciardo was a further three-tenths of a second back in P4.

Drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel had a quiet session besides his early run using the ‘Shield’ cockpit protection, which made its public debut in FP1.

Vettel finished 1.4 seconds off Bottas’ best time in sixth place, trailing Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen in P5, and was fortunate to avoid a spin through the fast Maggots-Becketts complex early in the session.

Armed with the updated ‘Spec 3’ Honda power unit in both cars, McLaren enjoyed a strong FP1 as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished inside the top 10.

Alonso with eighth-fastest, splitting Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa, while Vandoorne rounded out the top half of the order, 1.9 seconds back from Bottas.

Antonio Giovinazzi, in his first FP1 session for Haas F1 Team sitting in for Kevin Magnussen, was 16th, 2.9 seconds off the pace of Bottas. But he was only 0.4 of a second off Romain Grosjean, a solid outing.

FP2 is live on the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Friday. FP1 times are below.

F1 2017 driver review: Romain Grosjean

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Romain Grosjean

Team: Haas
Car No.: 8
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Austria)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 28
Championship Position: 13th

After leading Haas’ charge through its debut Formula 1 season in 2016, Romain Grosjean once again stepped up as team leader for the American team through its sophomore campaign despite scoring one point fewer.

Haas did not expect any major step in performance heading into 2017, having dealt with building all-new cars for two different sets of regulations, but the team was able to match its season one points total by the halfway mark this time around.

The big boost was the addition of a second points scoring driver – Kevin Magnussen – to partner Grosjean. Grosjean looked increasingly comfortable at Haas even if the car often presented problems, particularly under braking.

Radio rants were frequent, with Grosjean unable to drive around the issues as Magnussen did. But he was nevertheless able to finish the year as Haas’ top scorer, with his highlight moment being a perfect run to sixth in Austria.

Greater consistency was evident from both Grosjean and Haas through 2017, yet there were still swings in form that need to be ironed out in the future. The team was unable to capitalize on Renault and Toro Rosso’s late season difficulties that could have seen it jump to sixth in the constructors’ championship.

Grosjean once again proved himself to be a very competent and talented racer through 2017, but needs a little more panache – perhaps down to the car more than anything – if he is to put himself in the frame for a top-line drive in the future.

Haas continues to offer a good platform, though, and its third season should be its best yet thanks to the stability in the regulations. It will be a real chance for Grosjean to show what he can do.

Season High: A perfect run to sixth in Austria, leading the midfield cars.

Season Low: Crashing early with Ocon in Brazil, hurting Haas’ constructors’ hopes.