Consequently we head into the great unknown, where, on a weekend that is already proving difficult to ‘tie-down’, one wonders what star names might fall at the first hurdle, what surprises still lay in store.
Red Bull must surely feel confident however, for other than Verstappen setting the pace in all three practice session, teammate Albon has also looked strong throughout.
While it might be fun for us, for the engineers it must be a nightmare as they attempt to find a set-up for a track on which conditions appear to be in a state of continual change.
Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is a cool 12.1 degrees C, while the track temperature is 13.6 degrees. There is a 90% chance of further rain.
And as we wonder whether things can get any sillier, a dog is running loose around the track. He looks to be having the time of his life.
Checking on the condition of the track in the moments before the lights go green, even Bernd Maylander in the Safety Car is struggling for grip.
With an eye on the dark clouds heading towards the circuit, despite the already difficult conditions the drivers will be keen to get a time on the board. Sure enough, as the lights go green there is a long queue of cars sporting a mixture of wets and Inters.
Having run wide in Turn 9, Verstappen subsequently spins. “I have no grip,” he reports. Moments later, Albon spins at the same corner. Both are on Inters.
Albon pits, as does Grosjean, both switching to wets, as Norris posts a 2:07.947. The McLaren driver is on wets.
“Rain in 5,” Bottas is told as he goes quickest with a 2:07.001.
Albon is lucky not to collect a spinning Grosjean as the drivers continue to struggle for grip.
“I can’t take my hand off the wheel,” says Verstappen as onboard camera reveals he has almost no visibility.
Ocon (wets) posts a 2:06.115 and while Bottas improves his time is subsequently deleted.
Raikkonen is among the drivers struggling, though the Finn goes ninth.
Leclerc, Grosjean, Gasly, Russell and Latifi comprise the drop zone, with Verstappen, Albon, Sainz and Vettel hovering.
“It’s raining a crazy amount now,” says Hamilton.
Albon goes 8th on the wets with a 2:08.647.
Bottas is told to pit having secured a safe-looking second.
As Gasly goes off on to the grass, the session is red-flagged as Vettel complains of aquaplaning. “It’s undriveable,” says the German.
With 06:56 remaining, it’s: Ocon, Bottas, Stroll, Hamilton, Perez, Norris, Magnussen, Albon, Kvyat and Raikkonen.
Interestingly, on top of everything else, a number of drivers were experiencing issues with ‘fogged-up’ (that’s fogged-up) visors due to the cold and damp conditions.
Track sweeping is taking place at Turns 7 and 12 reports race control as it confirms that a 5 minute warning will be given ahead of the session re-start.
Finally, the all-clear is given, and the session will resume at 15:55 (local time).
Albon heads out a couple of minutes before the lights are due to go green, effectively undoing the work of his tyre warmers. He is on full wets, as are the drivers that subsequently join him.
There’s an early spin for Raikkonen on the approach to Turn 3. Running behind, Verstappen is lucky not to collect the spinning Alfa.
Albon begins his first flying lap as all 20 drivers are on track.
No sooner has Leclerc run wide in Turn 1 than Grosjean is off and in the gravel at the same corner.
“I’m stuck, I’m stuck, I’m stuck” moans the Frenchman.
Replay shows that Leclerc did well to avoid the same fate.
The session is red-flagged.
When the session resumes there will be just 3:30 remaining.
Ahead of the green light, Verstappen now heads the queue at the end of the pitlane.
The Dutchman subsequently runs wide in Turn 6. Every time he applies the power, the rear of the Red Bull begins to slide away.
Verstappen goes quickest in S1 as the yellows are waved in Turn 1 after Kvyat spins.
Verstappen maintains the pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 1:57.485.
Albon goes second and Raikkonen third ahead of Vettel.
Leclerc goes fifth, as Bottas claims seventh while Hamilton is having a difficult time. Indeed, the world champion, who has his time deleted, remains 14th.
Latifi has spun at Turn 8 and has to abandon his car.
It’s pretty much chaotic, but as the dust – or rather droplets settle, Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Albon, Raikkonen, Vettel, Leclerc, Gasly, Ricciardo, Ocon, Bottas and Norris.
We lose Magnussen, Kvyat, Russell, Grosjean and Latifi.
Both Alfas are through for the first time this season.
A number of drivers improved their times under the double yellows that followed Latifi’s off, but these will not be investigated until after the session. Which, in all honesty, doesn’t makes sense.
Even though Latifi’s stricken Williams is still being retrieved, the green light for Q2 is given.
“Why did they start the session,” asks a rightly incredulous Raikkonen.
While most are on full wets, the McLaren pair are on Inters.
Norris crosses the lie at 2:00.633, while Raikkonen posts a 2:01.230.
However, the McLaren driver has his timer deleted, promoting the Iceman to the top spot.
Albon goes top with a 2:00.026, only to be demoted when his teammate stops the clock at 1L57.125.
Perez goes second, ahead of Stroll, Bottas and Hamilton as conditions appear to ramp up.
Raikkonen goes second with a 57.212 as the times continue to improve.
Stroll is on as blinder, going quickest in the first two sectors.
No sooner has Albon gone top (56.721), than Stroll crosses the line at 55.730.
Perez goes third but has his time deleted.
Bottas goes third and Hamilton seventh, the Mercedes pair clearly struggling.
Perez, Verstappen and Albon trade fastest sectors. The Thai driver goes third, as Ricciardo goes second.
A 53.486 sees Verstappen go top ahead of Perez (54.097), while Hamilton goes fourth moments later.
With 5:00 remaining, Ocon, Leclerc, Norris, Gasly and Sainz comprise the drop zone.
Albon goes second with a 53.977 to make it a Red Bull 1-2, as Verstappen consolidates his top spot with a 52.036.
Bottas splits the Bulls with a 53.767, with Hamilton posting 53.877 moments later.
His time deleted, Vettel slips into the drop zone, as Sainz is baffled as to why he has no grip.
The Spaniard, like his teammate now on full wets, subsequently improves to tenth (56.943), but is it enough?
Perez and Sainz are to be investigated for impeding.
Vettel improves to eleventh with a 56.90 as teammate Leclerc begins his final lap.
Stroll goes third with a 53.372, as Sainz can only manage 11th.
Hamilton goes third as Albon improves to second.
Both Alfas in the Top Ten, as Vettel can only manage 12th. Teammate Leclerc also fails to make the cut, as do the McLarens.
Quickest is Verstappen, ahead of Albon, Hamilton, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Ocon, Bottas, Raikkonen, Perez and Ricciardo.
We lose Norris, Vettel, Sainz, Leclerc and Gasly.