Valtteri Bottas was fastest on Formula 1’s debut at Mugello, Ferrari looked strong in third.
Leclerc celebrated Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix with a strong result, but with the obvious asterisk that it’s been difficult to read into practice results at all this season.
Nicolas Latifi spun at turn two at the end of the session in an otherwise uneventful but informative morning, while Lewis Hamilton was half a second behind his teammate in fourth.
The biggest challenge looks to be keeping flat through turns six, seven and eight – several drivers feathered out of Arabiata 1 which proved a difference-maker in the second sector.
There was a mix of tyre selection across drivers’ first runs, with Verstappen fastest at the halfway point with a 1m19.017s on hard tyres.
At that stage he led Hamilton and Leclerc, before there was a flurry of drivers setting PBs on soft tyres.
Lando Norris was the first driver to go sub-79 seconds, and it wasn’t long before Bottas broke the next barrier by setting a 1m17.879s with half an hour to go.
Verstappen was next onto his flying lap and made up a quarter of a second in the final sector, but fell half a tenth short of the Finn, ending the session second fastest.
Pierre Gasly rounded out the top five a further quarter of a second behind Hamilton, with the session featuring lots of big gaps especially in the top ten.
Esteban Ocon split the AlphaTauris in sixth, with Norris eighth and over 1.1s behind Bottas’ time.
Alex Albon struggled to get up to speed and finished ninth, with Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.
Sebastian Vettel wasn’t able to emulate his teammate’s success at Ferrari’s celebration as he was thirteenth, behind two other Ferrari-powered cars in Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
Having announced their 2021 driver lineup yesterday, Racing Point had a tough first session as they ran 18th and 19th.
Sergio Perez, who’s losing his seat to Vettel in the Aston Martin rebrand, was ahead by four thousandths but two seconds off Bottas’ fastest lap.
However, both drivers ran the hard tyres throughout – alongside Nicolas Latifi – and Lance Stroll had an issue early on meaning he could only start his running with an hour to go.
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Honda||+0.048||32|
|9||Alex Albon||Red Bull Racing-Honda||+1.189||34|
|11||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||+1.340||21|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari||+1.443||28|
|15||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren-Renault||+1.578||33|
|16||George Russell (M)||Williams-Mercedes||+1.599||29|
|18||Lance Stroll (H)||Racing Point-BWT Mercedes||+1.957||23|
|19||Sergio Perez (H)||Racing Point-BWT Mercedes||+1.961||29|
|20||Nicholas Latifi (H)||Williams-Mercedes||+2.155||32|
All times set on soft tyres unless indicated