Formula 1 frontrunner Charles Leclerc was the fastest at FP1 for Ferrari at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix with a time of 1:29.402.
The conditions were dreadful to start the session on Friday at Imola, the first race of the season to adopt the qualifying-sprint-race setup seen last season.
With points on offer both on Saturday and Sunday, Free Practice 1 took on extra importance as the third practice session is axed to make way for the two race events, and there is more to race for over the weekend, with less time afforded for fine-tuning.
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In such wet conditions it was the first time for the cars to get extensive experience of how their cars would perform in the rain, and many drivers were reticent to get out early in the session.
Ferrari went into the race both as leaders in the constructors’ and drivers’ championships, with Monegasque Leclerc leading the way for the Italians, just as he did in their home circuit.
Red Bull had plenty of work to do to prove they were not suffering from their old reliability problems, and of course there was focus on how Lewis Hamilton would fare for Mercedes after struggling compared to his new teammate, George Russell.
"We know we haven't got the pace of the Ferrari and Red Bull right now, but we're working hard to reduce their advantage," said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
"There's been a lot of hard work over the Easter weekend in the factory to bring improvements to the car and get it ready to head to the next race, and that shows the team's dedication to turning the situation around."
To that end, Mercedes had made changes to their diffuser area, with Hamilton hoping for improvements rather than expecting them.
“I’m hoping that it’s going to feel better,” Hamilton explained. “Ultimately, it is fundamentally still the same car. I know everyone has been working hard to try to bring even the smallest bits of improvement to the car. We don’t have anything ground-breaking that’s going to change our results.”
With Leclerc in a confident mood, perhaps it was no surprise that he was one of the first to drive aggressively, and initially he paid for it, spinning out at turn 14.
Red Bull Max Verstappen and Leclerc both set early poles, and Carlos Sainz - beneficiary of a new two-year Ferrari contract - impressed alongside his teammate too.
With the inclement weather growing less sodden, teams were able to change over to intermediate tyres, and there was a late rush out the door to put down one final lap.

FP1 TOP 10

  • 1) Leclerc (Ferrari)
  • 2) Sainz (Ferrari)
  • 3) Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • 4) Magnussen (Haas)
  • 5) Schumacher (Haas)
  • 6) Perez (Red Bull)
  • 7) Alonso (Alpine)
  • 8) Vettel (Aston Martin)
  • 9) Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
  • 10) Russell (Mercedes)
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