Mercedes Gatecrash Max Verstappen’s Dutch Grand Prix Party

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George Russell topped the times ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes bounced back to form with a one-two in Friday’s opening practice for this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix.

There was disappointment for a raucous home crowd as local hero and world champion Max Verstappen watched from the pits after his Red Bull car suffered an early gearbox failure.

Russell, 24, clocked a best lap in 1min 12.455 seconds to outpace seven-time champion Hamilton by two-tenths on a dry day amid the seaside sand dunes.

Carlos Sainz was third for Ferrari ahead of Lando Norris and his McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

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Charles Leclerc was sixth in the second Ferrari.

Sergio Perez was seventh in the second Bull ahead of the two Alpines of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon with Alex Albon 10th for Williams.

On a warm and dry day, Alonso delivered an early fastest lap that was soon eclipsed by Norris before Verstappen and then Ricciardo took over at the top of the timing screens.

In front of a packed crowd of his home ‘orange army’ fans, Verstappen on hard tyres clocked 1:14.714, a full half-second quicker than the rest before he came to a halt out on the track after Turn Three with a gearbox problem.

This resulted in a red flag which halted the session for nine minutes to retrieve the Dutchman’s car and return it to the pits.

After the roars that had greeted his emergence, there was near-silence as his Red Bull was recovered before the action resumed with Alonso, again, and then Norris topping the times on soft tyres.

Sainz then showed Ferrari were keen to demonstrate their pace with a lap in 1:12.845 after half an hour before Mercedes joined the fray, Russell going top with 12 minutes remaining and then Hamilton slotting in second.

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