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FP1: Norris fastest during first practice in Australia after Albon causes red flag

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38

Lando Norris set the pace for McLaren during Friday’s opening free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix, leading the way from Red Bull rival Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ George Russell.

A bright and sunny practice hour at Albert Park saw plenty of wild moments and off-track excursions as drivers got back up to speed around Melbourne’s streets and an initially dusty surface steadily cleaned up.

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The biggest of those moments came with around 20 minutes remaining when Alex Albon took too much kerb coming out of Turn 7 and could not prevent his Williams from being spat into the wall on the other side of the track.

While Albon reported over the radio that he was fine after coming to a halt at Turn 8, having drifted back across the circuit, his stricken car and the many pieces of carbon fibre that had come off meant the session was red flagged for several minutes.

Australia 2024

Practice 1 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1NOR1:18.564
2VER+0.018s
3RUS+0.033s
4LEC+0.035s
5TSU+0.057s
View Full Results

When the action resumed, a flurry of drivers headed back out on soft tyres in a bid to better their times and eclipse Norris’ existing P1 benchmark, but the latter narrowly held on to top spot – 0.018s clear of Verstappen – with his 1m 18.564s effort on the red-marked rubber.

Charles Leclerc led Ferrari’s charge in fourth position, with Yuki Tsunoda a high-flying fifth for RB via a well-timed run on softs, followed by the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez in sixth and Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin in seventh.

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Carlos Sainz marked his return from appendicitis-related surgery in eighth, just under a tenth away from team mate Leclerc, with seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton ninth as he reported suspected floor damage after running over the kerbs at Turn 10.

Other drivers to have incidents at the high-speed Turn 9/10 chicane were Hamilton’s team mate Russell with a dramatic snap, Kick Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas with a spin and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso with a trip through the gravel.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG

Plenty of drivers went off the track during first practice at Albert Park

Verstappen was also captured exploring the limits in the closing stages of the session as he attacked the Turn 9/10 sequence and reported that “I bottomed out quite hard there”, albeit with no apparent consequences.

Home favourites Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo wound up in P10 and P11 for McLaren and RB respectively, with the sidelined Albon 12th, Kevin Magnussen the lead Haas in 13th and the other Williams of Logan Sargeant 14th.

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Alpine had another quiet start to the weekend as Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly placed 15th and 17th respectively, split by the second Haas machine of Nico Hulkenberg, who was seen tagging Sainz’s car in the late pit lane queue.

Alonso was down in 18th after a floor change, while Kick Sauber brought up the rear with Zhou Guanyu and the aforementioned Bottas in P19 and P20 – the drivers and their teams now set for a couple of hours of post-session learnings before second practice.

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