Max Verstappen continued his fine form by dominating first practice for the British Grand Prix.
The championship leader finished seven tenths faster than McLaren’s Lando Norris with Lewis Hamilton third.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc took fourth ahead of Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas who finished fifth in the other Mercedes.
Hamilton trails Verstappen by 32 points in his bid for a record-breaking eighth world title.
Speaking on Thursday, the 36-year-old said he hoped the partisan British crowd – with 86,000 in attendance here on Friday, and as many as 140,000 expected for Sunday’s Grand Prix – and a raft of planned Mercedes upgrades would kickstart his championship defence.
But Hamilton was blown away by Verstappen in the only running ahead of qualifying on Friday evening.
Qualifying, which usually takes place on Saturday, will set the grid for tomorrow’s maiden Sprint race.
However, on the evidence of practice, Hamilton will have his work cut out to stop Verstappen from taking the spoils.
The Dutchman, winner of four of the past five rounds as he pursues his first championship, ended the running an eye-watering 0.780 seconds ahead of Hamilton. “Seven tenths, where has that come from?” said a beleaguered Hamilton over the radio.
McLaren’s Norris split the championship protagonists. The 21-year-old had his £40,000 Richard Mille watch stolen when he was robbed following England’s Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy at Wembley on Sunday.
Norris admitted he was keen to put the terrifying ordeal behind him and he impressed to finish second in what has been a fine season so far.
Carlos Sainz recovered from an early spin to finish sixth and was the only other driver within a second of Verstappen’s blisteringly quick lap.
Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel finished seventh, while Williams’ George Russell propped up the order at his home event.
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