FP1: Perez edges out Leclerc and Verstappen in ultra-close first practice at Interlagos as qualifying nears
Sergio Perez narrowly set the pace during Friday’s first practice session for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, ahead of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen, as the third and final F1 Sprint weekend of the season got under way.
Given the Sprint format, FP1 took on greater importance than the usual Friday programme, with only 60 minutes available for teams to understand and fine-tune their cars ahead of qualifying at the technical Interlagos circuit.
After drivers spent the early stages gathering data on the hard and medium tyre compounds – Verstappen leading with a hard-shod time of 1m 13.575s – the first sets of softs appeared close to the halfway mark, leading to a flurry of improvements.
Perez triggered the move to the red-marked rubber, working his way down to a 1m 11.853s, with Verstappen initially slotting into P2, 0.008s back, as the reigning double world champion reported over the radio that his RB18 “doesn’t turn”.
FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN GRANDE PRÊMIO DE SÃO PAULO 2022
Practice 1 results
|1 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||1:11.853|
|2 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.004s|
|3 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+0.008s|
|4 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||+0.186s|
|5 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.187s|
In the closing minutes of the session, Leclerc would pip the struggling Verstappen by 0.004s to split the Red Bulls, after Ferrari made a late switch to the soft tyres – Carlos Sainz taking fourth, just under two-tenths back.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were both within a whisker of Sainz in P5 and P6 respectively, despite Hamilton stating that it “feels like the rear is just floating around” and locking up at the start of his soft tyre run.
Sebastian Vettel put his Aston Martin seventh as his F1 retirement draws ever closer, as Haas driver Mick Schumacher, the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas and AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 positions.
Alpine pair Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon made a low-key start to the weekend in respective P11 and P13 spots – neither Alpine nor rivals McLaren running soft tyres in the session – sandwiching Williams man Alex Albon, with the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll 14th after reporting technical issues.
Having been unwell on Thursday, Lando Norris made it out on track to lead McLaren’s charge in P15, followed by the remaining Haas and Williams machines of Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi.
Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) completed the field, which was covered by 1.5 seconds around the 4.309km venue.
In an otherwise quiet session, a slow-moving Norris at the exit of the Senna Esses drew the ire of Sainz, with Stroll frustrating Leclerc in another traffic-related incident on the run down to Juncao.
After FP1, attention immediately turns to qualifying in Sao Paulo, which is scheduled to get under way at 1600 local time. Visit the RACE HUB for more information.
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