Bottas leads Mercedes one-two in first practice session in Imola

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Imola, Italy (dpa) – Valtteri Bottas has topped the second practice session for the Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton on Friday.

He clocked 1 minute 15.551 seconds around the 4.959-kilometre Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari.

The Finn was 0.010 seconds ahead of seven-time world champion Hamilton in second and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, 0.078 seconds behind in third.

Bottas also led the Mercedes one-two in the first practice session earlier on Friday.

“Much better than Bahrain, the car seemed much more together this morning and this afternoon. The lower temperature helped, I’m really happy with it,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull was reportedly affected by a gearbox issue and only took part of the session for 10 minutes, finishing 14th.

“It looks like the drive shaft has given way unfortunately, it is on the Friday gearbox but we will be inspecting all the parts,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said.

Ferrari had a strong opening day with Carlos Sainz in fourth and Charles Leclerc in fifth, but the latter hit the wall towards the end of the session and caused a fair amount of damage to his car.

McLaren, meanwhile, saw Lando Norris finishing eight and Daniel Ricciardo 18th.

In the other Red Bull car, Sergio Perez improved from 16th to sixth. In the first session, he spun at the Villeneuve chicane with damaged left-rear and brought out the red flag after a contact with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon as the two cars reached the apex at the same time.

“In the end, both drivers agreed in the hearing that it was an unfortunate miscommunication of timing between them,” read ruling body FIA’s statement about the incident.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin was 15th, while rookie Mick Schumacher was 19th, with team-mate Nikita Mazepin 20th.

Mazepin, who spun on the first lap of his Formula One debut in Bahrain and didn’t finished the race, again struggled with the car and spun on track twice in the first session and also lacked grip in the second one.

Final practice and qualifying are on Saturday, and the race takes place on Sunday.