FP1: Verstappen leads Hamilton and Perez during first practice at Albert Park
Max Verstappen set the pace during Friday’s first free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix, leading the way from Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez at a cloudy but dry Albert Park Circuit.
After their back-to-back one-two finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Red Bull continued where they left off in FP1 as Verstappen headed straight out on soft tyres to lead the opening exchanges from Perez, who began his session on mediums.
Red Bull’s early laps also offered a glimpse at the upgrades they have brought Down Under, with the already-rapid RB19 sporting a new front wing endplate, additional front wing changes and a tweak to rear-end bodywork to aid cooling.
Mercedes are the other top-four team to add new parts this weekend, running updated floor edge vanes on their soon-to-be-revised W14, but there are no fresh developments for Ferrari or Aston Martin.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2023
Practice 1 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:18.790|
|2 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.433s|
|3 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.503s|
|4 Fernando Alonso ALO Aston Martin||+0.527s|
|5 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.588s|
After a flurry of mid-session lap times, reigning double world champion Verstappen firmly held P1 on 1m 18.790s, half a second clear of Perez – albeit with the Mexican’s best effort coming on the mediums.
Perez slid his way through Turn 3 when he switched to soft tyres, before a lack of GPS – which caused some traffic confusion and several near-misses – triggered a red flag and meant he finished without a time on the red-marked rubber.
Despite his comfortable advantage, it was not all plain sailing for Verstappen as he reported “terrible” gear shifts, rear brake trouble when he dipped a couple of wheels on the grass at the exit of Turn 11 and then had a spin at Turn 4 late on.
Having saved a huge slide through Turn 9, Hamilton delivered a late improvement on softs to split the Red Bulls in his Mercedes, with Fernando Alonso taking fourth for Aston Martin, followed by the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Lando Norris put his McLaren seventh on the timesheets, as Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, the other Mercedes of George Russell and the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 positions.
Alex Albon was the fastest of the Williams drivers in 11th position, in front of home favourite Oscar Piastri (McLaren), Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) and Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri).
Logan Sargeant had a tricky first session as he reported “bottoming so much I can’t even see”, before his Williams ground to a halt late on – and signalled another red flag – amid apparent technical problems, leaving him 15th ahead of Esteban Ocon (Alpine).
Yuki Tsunoda was 17th in his AlphaTauri after a wild spin at Turn 1 that almost ended in the barriers, as the Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen’s Haas – another to survive moments at Turn 3 and Turn 10 – completed the field.
Second practice at Albert Park is scheduled to begin at 1600 local time, with live coverage on F1.com. In the meantime, why not have a look at your F1 Fantasy team?