Max Verstappen was fastest in the first free practice session of the 2021 Formula 1 season, setting a time of 1m31.394s, nearly three tenths faster than Valtteri Bottas.
The circuit was busy from the off due to the shortened session for this year, with the fastest time changing early on, and Lewis Hamilton claimed the top spot after his first few laps with the best time of 1m32.844s.
The times stayed stable until the final half an hour when the McLaren of Lando Norris went fastest with a best time of 1m31.897s before Verstappen eventually went half a second faster in the closing stages.
Norris ended up third behind Bottas, with Hamilton fourth, half a second off Verstappen’s best effort, while Ferrari’s pace looked encouraging with Charles Leclerc in fifth.
Sergio Perez got off to a reasonable start on his Red Bull debut, ending up sixth fastest, two tenths ahead of Pierre Gasly, who continued his strong pre-season testing form into practice.
Carlos Sainz was eighth fastest, albeit three tenths slower than his new teammate Leclerc, while Daniel Ricciardo and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top ten.
The second Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen, while Aston Martin was line astern in 12th and 13th, with Sebastian Vettel edging out Lance Stroll by one-tenth of a second.
F1 rookie Yuki Tsunoda was 14th fastest, but was worryingly over a second slower than Gasly’s effort, while Esteban Ocon was the fastest of the Alpine drivers in 15th.
It was a disappointing start for Alpine with Ocon and Alonso in the bottom five. Alonso was 16th fastest on his return to the championship, although he has previously admitted it will take him a few races to get back up to the pace, he will have expected to be further up the gird.
George Russel and Nicholas Latifi were 17th and 18th for Williams, while the Haas pair of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin was the slowest of all.