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FP1: Leclerc leads Russell and Sainz during first practice in Imola as Albon brings out red flags

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 in the Pitlane

Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets during the opening practice session of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix weekend, with the Monegasque leading the way from George Russell and Carlos Sainz in a busy hour on track.

After Sprint events the last two times out in Miami and China, the traditional format has returned at Imola, meaning that the drivers hit the circuit for the first of the weekend’s three practice sessions on Friday afternoon.

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It was a busy start to the hour as several cars emerged onto the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, with most teams – barring RB – having brought upgrade packages for the seventh round of the season.

Amongst those early on track was Oliver Bearman, competing in the first of his six scheduled FP1 runs in 2024. The 19-year-old returned to action in Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, two months on from his impressive substitute performance for Ferrari in Saudi Arabia.

Emilia-Romagna 2024

Practice 1 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1LEC1:16.990
2RUS+0.104s
3SAI+0.13s
4PER+0.243s
5VER+0.25s
View Full Results

While Russell led the way for Mercedes following the opening laps, the session was brought to a brief halt 20 minutes in when Alex Albon – whose new multi-year contract extension with Williams was announced this week – pulled off track due to a mechanical issue.

As many bolted on the soft compound tyres for some fast laps after the action resumed, Leclerc went quickest at the halfway point for Ferrari with a time of 1m 17.438s.

Elsewhere several drivers experienced wide moments in the windy conditions, while Lewis Hamilton suffered a spin but managed to return his Mercedes to the track.

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It was Leclerc who was on top at the end of the hour on a lap of 1m 16.990s in the upgraded SF-24, followed by Russell in the Mercedes a further 0.104s behind, with Sainz in the other of the Scuderia’s cars in third.

Sergio Perez was the lead Red Bull in P4, while team mate Max Verstappen – who complained about a lack of grip and had more than one excursion across the grass in his final laps – went P5. RB’s Yuki Tsunoda followed in P6, ahead of Hamilton in P7 and Miami winner Lando Norris in P8 for McLaren.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

Hamilton suffered a spin during the latter stages of the session before returning to the track

Norris’s team mate Oscar Piastri slotted into P9, while Fernando Alonso completed the top 10, running a new-spec Aston Martin. Pierre Gasly went 11th quickest in the Alpine, leading from Aston Martin's Lance Stroll in 12th and RB’s Daniel Ricciardo in 13th.

After reporting understeer issues during the session, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon claimed P14, while Bearman was P15 in the Haas. The Kick Sauber duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu followed in P16 and P17 respectively.

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Logan Sargeant posted the 18th fastest time in the Williams, with team mate Albon behind in 19th after being unable to return to action following his stoppage earlier in the hour. Nico Hulkenberg, meanwhile, ended the session in 20th for Haas.

The drivers and teams will now have an opportunity to examine their FP1 data before returning to the track for second practice, which is set to get under way at 1700 local time.

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