FP1: Verstappen heads Perez as Red Bull lead the way in first practice at Jeddah
Championship leader Max Verstappen set the fastest time of FP1 in Saudi Arabia ahead of his Red Bull team mate, Sergio Perez, while Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso was third.
Despite the heat – heat that will dissipate under the lights for FP2, qualifying and the race – Red Bull and Aston Martin began the session with respective drivers Perez and Alonso donning soft tyres.
SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX – Read the all-new digital race programme here
The pair traded places at the top of the leaderboard for much of the first 30 minutes of FP1 before Verstappen equipped softs and eventually set the fastest time of 1m 29.617s.
Perez was 0.438s behind his team mate in second place. The Mexican driver has a new control electronics, energy store and gearbox, but no penalty, this weekend. Alonso was another two tenths away in P3 for Aston Martin, with his team mate, Lance Stroll, fourth and just under a second off the pace.
Mercedes were next on the board with George Russell fifth and Lewis Hamilton sixth, both just over 1.1s off the pace. Friday marks 10 years since Hamilton made his Mercedes debut; here he remarked he was “struggling for grip” as he rounded the track on softs.
FORMULA 1 STC SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX 2023
Saudi Arabia 2023
Practice 1 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:29.617|
|2 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.483s|
|3 Fernando Alonso ALO Aston Martin||+0.698s|
|4 Lance Stroll STR Aston Martin||+0.960s|
|5 George Russell RUS Mercedes||+1.154s|
Carlos Sainz, who has a new internal combustion engine for the race, but no penalty, finished seventh ahead of Alpine's Pierre Gasly. Charles Leclerc finished 11th in the other Ferrari.
Leclerc, who retired from the season opener, has a 10-place grid penalty in Saudi Arabia, having exceeded his allocation of control electronics. He will also have a new ICE and MGU-H for the Grand Prix.
In ninth was Alex Albon for Williams, while Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10 for AlphaTauri.
Esteban Ocon took P12 for Alpine ahead of Nyck de Vries in P13, while Oscar Piastri finished 14th for McLaren.
READ MORE: Hamilton announces split from long-time trainer and physio Angela Cullen
Haas were 15th and 16th with Nico Hulkenberg ahead of Kevin Magnussen, while Logan Sargeant was 17th for Williams.
Then sat Alfa Romeo with Valtteri Bottas 18th – 10 years after making his F1 Grand Prix debut – and Zhou Guanyu 19th.
Lando Norris was 20th on the board for McLaren. This weekend, Norris has a new exhaust, MGU-H, MGU-K turbocharger and internal combustion engine but no penalties as he has not exceeded any allocations.
Once since the beginning of 2022 has the FP1 pace-setter won the Grand Prix – and that was when Verstappen claimed victory at the 2022 Canadian Grand Prix. The second practice session begins at 2000 local time at Jeddah with Red Bull’s reigning champion holding the cards.