Both Friday practice sessions have each been cut to one hour in 2021, instead of the usual 90 minutes each.
FP1 was topped by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while teammate Perez was fastest in FP2 – as title rivals Mercedes seriously struggled for pace and languished outside of the top 10 in the overall times.
What happened in Free Practice 1?
Lewis Hamilton set the soft-tyred benchmark for Mercedes at 1m43.893s after 20 minutes.
The first incident of the session was rookie Yuki Tsunoda clipping the wall approaching Turn 4 in his AlphaTauri and he spent an age in the escape road, repeatedly struggling to find reverse. Just after he got going, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel outbraked himself at Turn 1 but was soon on his way again.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo spent a morale-boosting period at P1 on 1m43.732s. Teammate Norris was on a faster lap when he spun at Turn 16, just keeping it out of the wall.
Ferrari then claimed a 1-2, with Charles Leclerc’s 1m43.227s a third-of-a-second clear of Carlos Sainz. Hamilton was also on a quick lap when he opted to go straight on at Turn 15, as did Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and, late on in the session, Sainz.
Verstappen, who had a number of laps thwarted by traffic much to his disgust, went to the top of the times with 10 minutes remaining after producing 1m43.184s. Behind him, and benefiting from a distant tow, teammate Sergio Perez went fourth quickest. Ricciardo stayed fifth, ahead of Gasly.
Hamilton was seventh, ahead of Norris, Fernando Alonso (Alpine) and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes).
Nikita Mazepin spun his Haas in the wall at Turn 16 in the closing stages, while teammate Mick Schumacher outbraked himself at Turn 4. Bottas and Norris went off in tandem at Turn 4.
What happened in Free Practice 2?
In FP2, Bottas went off at Turn 1 on his first flying lap attempt and Norris bailed out down the escape road at Turn 15. Vettel spun at Turn 16 as the early incidents came thick and fast.
Nicholas Latifi caused a red flag when his Williams suffered a mechanical issue and was stranded on track.
After a quick break, Sainz bolted on the soft tyres and set the pace at 1m42.243s, with Leclerc popping into second, 0.193s down. Leclerc then set the fastest first sector on his second push lap but locked up and slid into the wall at Turn 15, leaving his front wing behind after crunching head-on into the tyres.
Perez jumped up to P1 at his second attempt, producing a time of 1m42.115s, with Verstappen 0.101s slower. Sainz and Leclerc were third and fourth respectively.
Gasly was fifth fastest, despite another trip down the Turn 15 escape road, ahead of Alonso, an impressive Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo), Norris, Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Tsunoda (who went off again late on but managed to perform a decent spin-turn this time to rejoin).
Hamilton struggled for pace at the second street race weekend in succession, reporting that he “didn’t really know where the time is to be honest” on the soft tyre. He finished the session 11th, with Bottas down in 16th.