Formula 1

Max Verstappen fastest at Silverstone as Nico Hulkenberg returns

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Max Verstappen (Silverstone)

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31/07/2020 at 16:23 | Updated 31/07/2020 at 16:27

Red Bull's Max Verstappen was fastest in first practice for the British Grand Prix on Friday while Nico Hulkenberg looked like he'd never been away after stepping in as Sergio Perez's replacement at Racing Point.

On a hot and sunny day at Silverstone that was as crowdless as it was cloudless, with Sunday's race the latest to be held behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Verstappen lapped with a best time of one minute 27.422 seconds.

Mercedes' six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will be chasing a record seventh home win, was second fastest, 0.474 off the pace but using slower medium tyres than the Dutchman's softs.

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Hamilton leads Finnish team mate Valtteri Bottas, sixth fastest on the hard tyre, in the standings by five points after three races.

Racing Point's Canadian Lance Stroll was third on the timesheets with Red Bull's Alexander Albon fourth and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc fifth.

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Leclerc's team mate Sebastian Vettel was sidelined for most of the session after Ferrari detected something wrong with his car's intercooler system and decided to strip it down to be ready for the second session.

Hulkenberg was the 'new' name on the screens, the experienced driver walking back into the paddock 10 minutes before the start of the session to take over the Mexican's 'Pink Mercedes'.

Perez was ruled out by a positive Covid-19 test on Thursday and is self-isolating.

The German acquitted himself well, setting the ninth best time despite reporting some discomfort from the seat - and having to wear his team-mate Lance Stroll's spare overalls.

"Having to find a replacement for Sergio at short notice is no easy task, but in Nico we've got a fantastic supersub who the team knows very well," said team boss Otmar Szafnauer in a statement.

"He's certainly being thrown in at the deep end, but he's a fast learner and I'm sure he will get up to speed quickly."

Hulkenberg was en route to the Nuerburgring when he got the call from the team, who were Force India when he drove for them.

"That was less than 24 hours ago, so it feels a bit surreal for me right now, but I like a good challenge and this is certainly one," said the 32-year-old.

Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi brought out red flags at the half hour mark after spinning at the exit to Becketts, leaving debris across the track.

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