Reigning world champion Max Verstappen comfortably clears rivals in first practice session in Jeddah; Fernando Alonso splits Red Bulls to finish second; George Russell fourth ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton; Watch Practice Two live on Sky Sports F1 at 5pm
15:13, UK, Friday 17 March 2023
Max Verstappen delivered another ominous display of speed by leading a Red Bull one-two in first practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Verstappen showed no signs of the illness that saw him miss media duties in Jeddah on Thursday, as he delivered a 1:29.617 to finish nearly half a second faster than team-mate Sergio Perez on F1’s fastest street circuit.
Fernando Alonso completed a repeat top three finish at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this month to take third ahead of Aston Martin, who enjoyed another hugely encouraging session with Lance Stroll fourth.
Trying to regroup after a demoralizing start to their season in Bahrain, Mercedes had George Russell in fifth, one place ahead of Lewis Hamilton, but both cars were more than a second off Verstappen’s leading time.
Carlos Sainz was seventh for Ferrari, who confirmed during the session that they have installed new engines on both cars for the second round of the season following Charles Leclerc’s retirement in Bahrain.
Leclerc, who has been given a 10-place grid penalty for installing his third control electronics unit of the season, finished 11th.
Pierre Gasly was eighth as he further acclimatised to the new Alpine team, while Alex Albon gave Williams more encouragement as he backed up a points-scoring start to the season with ninth.
There was little sign of improvement for McLaren as Lando Norris finished last 2.5 seconds off the pace, while rookie teammate Oscar Piastri fared slightly better in 14th.
After impressing in Bahrain, Alfa Romeo showed a worrying lack of speed with Valtteri Bottas 18th and team-mate Zhou Guanyu a place below him.
While reigning world champion Verstappen’s speed may seem ominous to rivals, Friday’s second session, under the lights, will provide conditions representative of qualifying on Saturday and Sunday.
Verstappen had posted on social media on Thursday that he was “feeling well again” after a stomach flu delayed his flight to Saudi Arabia, and backed up that claim on Friday.
The Dutchman, who is seeking a third successive drivers’ title, was the last car to take to the track in the extreme heat of the late afternoon, but needed little time to rise to the top of the time table.
Despite complaining of balance issues, he continued to improve throughout the session, setting his fastest time in the closing moments to leave no doubt about his status as the clear favorite for this weekend’s race and the world championship.
With Mercedes and Ferrari both starting the season behind, Aston Martin appears to be the team best placed to challenge Red Bull at this early stage of the 23-race campaign.
Alonso spent much of the session ahead of Perez before being ousted from second place late on, while teammate Stroll made his heroic comeback from a cycling accident in Bahrain to finish fourth.
Practice two – in Saudi Arabia’s much more representative and fast-paced evening conditions – is live on Sky Sports F1 at 5pm after the build up at 4.45pm.
Saudi Arabian GP Practice One Timesheet
|1) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1:29,617|
|2) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.483|
|3) Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin||+0.698|
|4) Lance walk||Aston Martin||+0.960|
|5) George Russell||Mercedes||+1,154|
|6) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+1,170|
|7) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+1,307|
|8) Pierre Gasley||Alps||+1,332|
|9) Alex Albon||Willems||+1,413|
|10) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1,493|
|11) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+1,501|
|12) Esteban Ocon||Alps||+1,564|
|13) Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri||+1,833|
|14) Oscar Piastri||McLaren||+1,874|
|15) Nico Hulkenberg||Hare||+1.935|
|16) Kevin Magnussen||Hare||+1,949|
|17) Logan Sergeant||Willems||+2.305|
|18) Valttery Bottas||Alfa Romeo||+2,353|
|19) Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||+2,369|
|20) Lando Norris||McLaren||+2,532|