Racing with a new engine on Friday, Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in both practice sessions of the Turkish Grand Prix.
The narrow championship leader this season led the first session ahead of title rival Max Verstappen and the second against Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who led impressively in both.
Hamilton entered the garage 10 minutes after the second run after complaining about a lack of grip in his front tires.
Once the issue was resolved, the Mercedes star dominated the standings halfway through the P2. He finished it 0.17 seconds ahead of Leclerc and 0.41 seconds ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen lacked his usual speed and finished fifth behind Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.
Despite dry conditions in Istanbul Park, veteran Kimi Raikkonen got his feet wet when his drink bottle spilled on his boots. The 41-year-old Finn didn’t live up to his nickname “The Iceman”, using a series of profanity to describe the effects as he berated Alfa Romeo mechanics.
Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, who like his Haas teammate Mick Schumacher has yet to score a point this season, lost control of his car and took off towards the end of P2.
There is a third test on Saturday before qualifying.
Earlier on Friday, Hamilton placed .43 ahead of Verstappen and .48 ahead of Leclerc, Bottas fourth.
Hamilton leads Verstappen by two points with seven races to go, including this one.
But that lead could well be lost on Sunday as Hamilton begins the race with a 10-grid penalty for going over his three-engine allowance for the season. Mercedes installed a fourth combustion engine on Friday.
The track proved to be much more reliable than last year when it had just been remade to host an F1 race for the first time since 2011 and was too slippery.
Drivers complained about the 5.3-kilometer (3.3-mile) course in 2020, with Verstappen comparing it to an ice rink. He placed sixth in that race after qualifying in second, while Hamilton moved from sixth place on the grid to win and clinch a record-breaking seventh world title.
Red Bull is powered by Honda engines, but the Japanese manufacturer is withdrawing from F1 at the end of 2021. In honor of Honda, Red Bull and the AlphaTauri power team have special liveries on their cars for this race, which replaced the Japanese GP. after its cancellation due to coronavirus concerns.
The Red Bulls used a predominantly white livery, inspired by the Honda that American rider Richie Ginther propelled to victory at the 1965 Mexican GP.
House favorite Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauris had “Arigato” – Japanese for thank you – written on the rear fenders.
Hamilton is aiming for an eighth world title, to surpass Michael Schumacher and stand out among the greats of F1. But Verstappen leads him 7-5 for wins this season and 7-3 for pole positions.