The Mercedes duo left it late to complete their soft tyre runs, with Russell jumping to the top of the timesheets, 0.212s ahead of seven-time world champion Hamilton. 

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Russell saw his FP1 running compromised by an issue with a development item on his Mercedes that forced the team to carry out a complete steering rack change. 

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third-fastest and 0.324s off the pace, while championship leader Max Verstappen, who set his quickest lap earlier than those ahead of him, was four-tenths down in fourth. 

Carlos Sainz put his Ferrari fifth ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, and the Aston Martin pair of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll. 

Despite causing a red flag when he lost control of his Haas and hit the wall, Nico Hulkenberg’s impressive early soft tyre run was quick enough to put him ninth, ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. 

After winning last time out in Azerbaijan, Sergio Perez was well off the pace in his Red Bull, some 1.4s slower of Russell and a second adrift of teammate Verstappen. 

"The car has some goodness, it is just very tricky to unlock it," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said inbetween practice sessions. 

"When the drivers have confidence, they can go quick. It is on a razor's edge. This morning we seemed to be in a sweet spot. I don't think we can extrapolate from this. We ran later than everybody else but at least it looked more encouraging than Baku."