Lewis Hamilton started his quest to secure a record-equalling world championship by finishing a lowly 15th in opening practice for the Turkish Grand Prix.
Hamilton can emulate Michael Schumacher by sealing his seventh title if he wins in Istanbul on Sunday.
But the Mercedes star finished more than five seconds off the pace on a curious morning as the drivers struggled for grip on Formula One’s return to Turkey.
Max Verstappen gazumped team-mate Alexander Albon late on to finish at the top of the order. The Red Bull drivers were separated by 0.241 sec with Charles Leclerc third for Ferrari.
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) November 13, 2020
The sport last staged a race here back in 2011 and the fast-flowing Istanbul Park circuit resembled an ice rink as the drivers failed to get sufficient temperature into their tyres on the resurfaced tarmac.
Hamilton spent most of the morning observing from the comfort of his Mercedes garage, but when he did emerge with two thirds of the 90-minute session already completed, he failed to trouble the top of the time charts. Indeed, Hamilton completed just 12 laps, the fewest of any driver.
Valtteri Bottas, the only man who can stop Hamilton from winning the championship, was among a number of drivers to spin in the slippery conditions.
CLASSIFICATION: END OF FP1 ⏱️
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 13, 2020
The Finn, who trails Hamilton by 85 points with just 104 points available, ended the running in ninth place, 2.5 sec slower than Verstappen.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz parked at the side of the track with an engine failure, while George Russell endured a miserable session.
The young Briton, who is facing a grid penalty after exceeding the permitted number of engine parts allowed, finished rooted to the foot of the order, more than 14 seconds off Verstappen’s pace.
Lando Norris, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Friday, was seventh for McLaren. The second running of the day gets under way at 1500 local time.