Lewis Hamilton struggles for pace in practice as he seeks Turkish delight

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.

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.

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ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Racing Point and third placed Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Murad Sezer - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates winning a 7th F1 World Drivers Championship in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (R) congratulates Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) after winning the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Kenan Asyali / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KENAN ASYALI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton reacts as he gets out of his car after winning the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Clive Mason / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CLIVE MASON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race and the 7th world championship after the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by TOLGA BOZOGLU / POOL / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA BOZOGLU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ozan Kose - Pool/Getty Images)
Spectators watch the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by MURAD SEZER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MURAD SEZER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 runs wide under pressure from George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Turkish Air Forces aerobatic demonstration team, 'SOLOTURK' performs ahead of the Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes stops in the Pitlane during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: People follow the Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes leads Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes and the rest of the field at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Murad Sezer - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on from the grid before the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton (44) of Mercedes competes during the Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session at the Intecity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 13, 2020 ahead of the Turksish Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by Kenan Asyali / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KENAN ASYALI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C39 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Kenan Asyali-Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 12, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Antonin Vincent - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Kenan Asyali-Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) McLaren F1 Team MCL35 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 12, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Adrian Newey, the Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing talks with a Red Bull Racing team member in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes Team speaks to press at the paddock of the Intercity Istanbul Park ahead of Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey on November 12, 2020. Teams made track walk at Intercity Istanbul Park as part of qualification lap on November 14 and the race on November 15. The Turkish Grand Prix will be held on Sunday at the Intercity Istanbul Park in Tuzla on the citys Asian side. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Renault Sport Formula One Team RS20 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari walks in the Paddock before practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Antonio Giovinazzi (99) of Alfa Romeo drives at Turkish Grand Prix 2020 training tour, at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 12, 2020. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton (44) of Mercedes team drives at Turkish Grand Prix 2020 training tour, at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 12, 2020. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ozan Kose - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 makes a pitstop during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 spins during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tolga Bozoglu - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates winning a 7th F1 World Drivers Championship in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tolga Bozoglu - Pool/Getty Images)
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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.

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.

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