Max Verstappen finished fastest in the first practice session of the 2020 British Grand Prix for Red Bull, as Nico Hulkenberg – stepping in to replace Sergio Perez at Racing Point for this race – made his first appearance in an F1 session since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year.

The absence of Sergio Perez – due to a positive Covid-19 test – was the big news ahead of this race, before ex-Renault and Force India racer Hulkenberg was called up at the last minute to replace him. The German was one of the first drivers out of the garage when the session began and finished ninth fastest on his return.

Session leader Verstappen donned soft tyres to show blistering pace for Red Bull, setting a time 0.474s quicker than Lewis Hamilton and another tenth ahead of Racing Point’s third-place Lance Stroll with around 30 minutes of the 90-minute session remaining. Verstappen’s time of 1m27.422s was a full seven-tenths faster than his team mate’s, as Alex Albon finished fourth.

Hamilton had a new MGU-K fitted to his W11 this weekend in a precautionary move by Mercedes, but he will not take a grid penalty as he is still within his allowance for the season. The 2019 race winner’s fastest FP1 time was set on mediums, while third-place Stroll managed to finish 0.582s off the pace, on softs for Racing Points.

FORMULA 1 PIRELLI BRITISH GRAND PRIX 2020

Practice 1 results

POSITION TIME
1  Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:27.422
2  Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.474s
3  Lance STROLL Racing Point +0.582s
4  Alexander ALBON Red Bull Racing +0.707s
5  Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.799s

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was stuck in the garage for FP1 with an intercooler issue in his SF1000 car and completed no timed laps, but he’ll be running in FP2 according to the team. As a result, he propped up the standings while team mate Charles Leclerc rounded out the top-five with a 0.799s deficit to Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas was the first driver over a second off Verstappen’s place as he focused on long runs on the hard compound tyres for Mercedes.

The Renault duo finished behind Bottas with Esteban Ocon seventh, just under 0.020s faster than eighth-place Daniel Ricciardo.

Hulkenberg, running in an FP1 session for the first time since last year, was just 0.6s behind his team mate Stroll. He spent 45 minutes in Racing Point’s simulator on Friday morning, before jumping into the car for FP1, having tested negative for coronavirus prior to entering the paddock.

Rounding out the top-10 was AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat who was a whisker faster than 11th-place team mate Pierre Gasly. McLaren had Carlos Sainz 11th ahead of Lando Norris in P12. Team Principal Andreas Seidl said that the team had brought floor and front-wing updates and were running an “intensive” programme in FP1 to make sure the parts were working as planned.

Alfa Romeo’s duo had an eventful session, with Kimi Raikkonen, P18, going off at Luffield (Turn 7) moments before Antonio Giovinazzi, P17, spectacularly spun at Chapel (Turn 13) and then rejoined the track with a shower of gravel, rubber and carbon fibre trailing his C39.

WATCH: Nico Hulkenberg back on track in F1 after last-minute call up to replace Perez

That brought out a 12-minute red-flag with just over an hour remaining and the Italian has been summoned by the stewards, who were unimpressed by his efforts to nurse the car slowly back to the pits after the incident.

As for Williams, George Russell finished 17th as he returned to Silverstone for his second home Grand Prix, and rookie Nicholas Latifi finished 19th in front of garage-bound Vettel.