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Valtteri Bottas on top ahead of Lewis Hamilton in opening Silverstone practice

Alfa Romeo's Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas drives at Vale during first practice ahead of the Formula One British Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England on Friday

Alfa Romeo's Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas drives at Vale during first practice ahead of the Formula One British Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England on Friday. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

Published Jul 1, 2022

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Silverstone — Valtteri Bottas topped the times for Alfa Romeo ahead of home hero Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in Friday's rain-swept opening practice session at the British Grand Prix.

The Finn, who was Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate before moving teams this year, clocked a best lap time of one minute and 42.249 seconds in a relatively dull session with limited serious running for fast lap times.

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Seven-time world champion Hamilton, the subject of offensive racist and homophobic comments by Nelson Piquet reported this week, was half a second adrift of Bottas, but ahead of Carlos Sainz, his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc and Mick Schumacher of Haas.

There was little meaningful action and few incidents, but the session ended with a red flag when the under-pressure Lance Stroll spun into a gravel trap at Copse in his Aston Martin.

Bottas set his time on intermediate tyres in the closing stages after consistent rain had prevented any dry running for the teams, nine of which had arrived at Silverstone with major car upgrade packages. Only Alpha Tauri chose to appear with an unchanged car.

On a cool, wet day at the former airfield in central England, the heavily-upgraded Mercedes cars were first out and ran side-by-side down Wellington straight, to the delight of a big crowd, on what was merely an installation lap.

The rain intensified as Ferrari joined the action, but typically of the area the circuit was wet in parts, but remained dry elsewhere.

After 20 minutes, 17 of the 20 drivers had ventured out, but mostly to explore the track as Sainz, on intermediate tyres, clocked 1:42.967 in a brief spell of drying conditions.

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By half-time in the session, only nine had registered competitive lap times, with Sainz leading Bottas and Leclerc and Hamilton re-emerging to please the fans and evaluate the package of new parts on his car.

Hamilton also victim of homophobic slur

After a difficult week, during which he had faced criticism and offensive comments, Hamilton was manifestly relieved to be driving instead of talking in mandatory news conferences.

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Advised to retire by Jackie Stewart and insulted with a racial slur by Nelson Piquet, Hamilton had also acceded to the sport's new enforcement of a 'bling ban' by removing a nose stud.

It was also revealed on Friday that Piquet had not only used a racist slur, but had also used homophobic language in a further offensive comment during his appearance in a Brazilian podcast last November.

Piquet was banned from the Formula One paddock and had his membership of the British Racing Drivers Club suspended on Thursday, when his comments were first reported.

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New footage of further comments by Piquet was revealed on social media on Friday. This included insulting remarks aimed at Keke and Nico Rosberg and both racist and homophobic slurs against Hamilton.

AFP

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