Bottas arrived in Barcelona having to rubbish reports about his future at Mercedes but made the perfect start to the weekend and sent a message to his critics by topping the FP1 timesheets.

The Finn’s best lap - a 1m18.504s - saw him pip Verstappen to the quickest time, although the Dutchman appeared to leave time on the table in a far from ideal run on the Soft tyres.

F1 2021 | Spanish GP 2021 | Will Verstappen Strike Back Against Lewis Hamilton At Montmelo Circuit?

Verstappen aborted his first effort having encountered traffic and then ran wide at Turn 10 on his second timed run, but was still able to get within 0.033s of Bottas’ benchmark.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is going for a fifth successive Spanish GP win, was a tenth further behind in the second Mercedes.

Lando Norris was an impressive fourth as he looks to continue his superb start to the season, with McLaren trialling a new front nose and floor this weekend in Spain.

The Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were an encouraging fifth and sixth as the only runners who opted to set their best lap times on Mediums tyres.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was seventh-quickest ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who outpaced Red Bull driver Sergio Perez and Aston Martin teammate Lance Stroll as he continues to get up to speed with his new team.

Further down the order, Roy Nissany finished 17th-fastest in his first practice appearance of 2021, deputising for Williams regular George Russell.

The session was briefly red-flagged with 15 minutes to go when Alfa Romeo reserve driver Robert Kubica beached his car in the gravel following a spin at Turn 10. Kubica will hand the C41 back over to Kimi Raikkonen for FP2.

Kubica ended his first FP1 outing of the year in 19th, ahead of Haas rookie Nikita Mazepin, who spun at Turn 8 on his way to setting the slowest time of the session.