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Formula One

FP1: Albon tops rain-affected session at Interlagos, but ends it in the wall

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Alex Albon led a mostly wet and largely unrepresentative first practice session for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, but ended up with his Red Bull RB15 stuck in the wall at the tail-end of the 90 minutes, bringing out an FP1-ending red flag.

With the session beginning in a rainstorm, there was little early activity, as just a handful of drivers ventured out on full wet tyres for what were mostly installation laps. With 35 minutes down and the track beginning to dry, however, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen heralded the switch to intermediate tyres, with the majority of the field soon following suit.

It was Albon who used the green-walled rubber to best effect, stopping the clocks at 1m 16.142s – around nine seconds off Hamilton’s 2018 pole lap – to claim the session-leading time ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

But with just five minutes remaining, and the track having been dried up by the intermediate running, a number of drivers reckoned that conditions were good enough to venture out on dry tyres.

However, a spin at Turn 2 for Verstappen, followed by another for Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat at Turn 1 showed that it might have been the wrong call – before the cameras picked up Albon stuck in the wall at Turn 12, having slid off the road. That brought out a red flag with three minutes of the session to go, with race control confirming that running wouldn’t resume.

That meant that, despite the crash, it was Albon who headed Bottas, ahead of the Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz in fifth – although only 16 drivers set a time, with neither Hamilton nor Verstappen putting in a flying lap.

Nicholas Latifi, the current frontrunner to get the drive in the second Williams for 2020, was the slowest of those 16 runners, as he stepped in for the out-going Robert Kubica in FP1.

So, the Red Bull mechanics will have a job on their hands to get Albon’s RB15 ready in time for what’s predicted to be a drier FP2.

 

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