FP1: Verstappen leads Sainz and Leclerc in busy sole practice session at the Qatar Grand Prix weekend
On the weekend where he could win his third consecutive drivers’ title, Max Verstappen made a fast start in Qatar, as he topped the timesheets in the lone practice session in Lusail, comfortably leading the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.
With just one practice session under the Sprint format, the drivers had just 60 minutes to hone their setups under the Lusail heat – although temperatures will cool at night for qualifying later today, as well as the Sprint, and Sunday’s race.
As the weekend’s action got underway, the drivers made their way out onto a newly resurfaced, yet dusty, Lusail track, with both Verstappen and Sainz coming on the radio to joke about the slippery nature of the circuit they met.
But as the session got going the drivers began to churn out the laps while also cleaning the track. Despite that there were a number of drivers who ran wide as they got to grips with the circuit, with Verstappen and Lando Norris even hitting the polystyrene boards.
FORMULA 1 QATAR AIRWAYS QATAR GRAND PRIX 2023
Practice 1 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:27.428|
|2 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||+0.334s|
|3 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.481s|
|4 Fernando Alonso ALO Aston Martin||+0.491s|
|5 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.588s|
Multiple drivers topped the leaderboard early on but, after the first 40 minutes of running, it was Oscar Piastri who set the pace. The McLaren rookie continued his fine form with a time of 1m 28.380s good enough to lead his team mate, Norris, in second by just 0.061s.
With about 15 minutes remaining in the session, the drivers ducked into the pit lane to strap on a second set of tyres. And while many – including the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers – opted for some qualifying simulation runs on the softs, others – such as the McLaren and Mercedes drivers – chose the mediums.
As the chequered flag dropped it was Verstappen who completed the fastest lap on the softs. His time of 1m 27.428s was good enough to lead Sainz by 0.334s – with Leclerc in the second Ferrari crossing the line nearly half a second off Verstappen’s time.
Fernando Alonso impressed as he was fourth fastest, and within half a second of Verstappen, on the medium tyres, with Sergio Perez in fifth, ahead of the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda.
Nico Hulkenberg was the highest placed Haas in seventh after his flying lap on the softs, ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell, and the McLaren’s of Piastri and Norris – with all three not setting a time on the softs.
Logan Sargeant was the lead Williams in 11th, ahead of his team mate Alex Albon – who ran wide twice at Turn 4 as he looked to set his flying lap on the softs much to his frustration – with Lewis Hamilton down in 13th – although he bailed out on a faster lap across the chequered flag.
Lance Stroll was down in 14th for Aston Martin, ahead of the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, as well as the Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu.
Liam Lawson started his fifth weekend in a row deputising for Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri by going 19th fastest, with Kevin Magnussen bringing up the rear of the field for Haas.
The lone practice session of the weekend is now over and the drivers will debrief with their teams ahead of qualifying in Qatar later today at 2000 local time.