Max Verstappen threw down the gauntlet at the British Grand Prix with the fastest time of the only practice session of the weekend before qualifying.

Verstappen’s best time of 1m28.035s, set on the soft compound that will enjoy exclusive use in the qualifying hour, was 0.779s faster than McLaren’s Lando Norris, whose best time was set on the slower medium tire.

Lewis Hamilton, trailing the Dutchman by 32 points in the title standings, was third and 0.78s off the pace, with teammate Valtteri Bottas fifth and a further 0.182s adrift.

The Mercedes drivers donned the soft compound late, but the team was clearly focusing on long-run performance. The German marque has brought its last update package of the season to Silverstone in the hope of closing its 44-point deficit, and it dispatched both its drivers to the circuit for 18-lap stints on the medium tire — one more tour than scheduled for Saturday’s sprint qualifying — to help set up the car before qualifying starts later today.

Hamilton and Bottas ended the hour with a session-high 30 laps apiece, with the former reporting blistering, especially on the right-front tire, from around Lap 15 of his simulation.

In a change to the regular weekend schedule to accommodate sprint qualifying on Saturday afternoon, qualifying as we know it will replace Friday afternoon practice. That means parc ferme conditions will be enforced from the beginning of Q1 today, representing an effective 66 percent reduction in practice time for setup purposes.

Ferrari showed strongly at the classic British circuit, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz fourth and sixth, the pair split by less than a tenth of a second despite the Spaniard looping his car exiting Turn 3 early in the session

Sebastian Vettel was best placed in Aston Martin’s first session at Silverstone since 1960. The German was equipped with a new internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H, using the fresh parts to lap 1.027s off the pace for seventh.

Sergio Perez was eighth in the second Red Bull Racing car and 1.128s slower than his session-topping teammate, while Daniel Ricciardo was 0.048s slower for McLaren in ninth.

Esteban Ocon completed the top 10 for Alpine in a brand-new chassis. The Frenchman’s tub change came off the back of an unexplained fallow run in the last month.

AlphaTauri pair Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda were 1.4s and 1.5s off the pace respectively in 11th and 12th. Alfa Romeo teammates Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen finished 13th and 15th to sandwich Fernando Alonso, who was half a second slower than teammate Ocon. For 14th.

Nicholas Latifi was the fastest Williams driver, finishing 16th ahead of Haas driver Mick Schumacher.

Lance Stroll radioed his pit wall that he had “no confidence right now” in his Aston Martin on his way to a distant 18th, 2.5s off the pace and 1.5s slower than teammate Vettel.

Nikita Mazepin finished 19th for Haas ahead of last-placed Williams drivers George Russell.

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