Max Verstappen broke down with a gearbox failure as George Russell led Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in first practice for the Dutch Grand Prix.
The one-hour running at Zandvoort was only 10 minutes old when world champion Verstappen stopped on track with smoke pouring out the back of his Red Bull.
“Something went with the gearbox,” the Dutchman reported, leaving his orange-clad supporters stunned into silence.
The action was suspended for nine minutes as Verstappen’s wounded machine was towed away.
Despite starting 14th following an engine penalty, Verstappen dominated at the Belgian Grand Prix last Sunday to extend his championship lead to 93 points with eight rounds remaining.
But his absence on Friday allowed Russell to clock the fastest time in an encouraging show from Mercedes.
Hamilton crashed out on the opening lap at Spa-Francorchamps following a collision with Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton’s early bath capped a poor weekend for the seven-time world champion and his Mercedes team.
But on the evidence of first practice, the shorter, twisty Zandvoort circuit appears better suited to the Silver Arrows with Russell 0.240 seconds clear of Hamilton.
Carlos Sainz finished third for Ferrari, almost four tenths slower than Russell, with McLaren’s Lando Norris fourth, half-a-second back.
On an promising opening run of the weekend for McLaren, Norris’ team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took fifth, one spot ahead of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.
Sergio Perez ran off the road at Turn 9 and, while he was able to continue, the Mexican finished only seventh – a full second back.
Alonso, who called Hamilton an “idiot” at the last round before apologising to the British driver here on Thursday, was eighth, ahead of both Aston Martins.
Alonso is leaving Alpine to join Aston Martin next year, replacing Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel, who is retiring at the end of the campaign, impeded Norris in the closing moments. The incident at Turn 12 has been noted by the stewards.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.