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FP1: Sainz leads Leclerc and Russell as Sprint weekend gets underway in Sao Paulo

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SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 03: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-23 on track

Carlos Sainz topped the timesheets in the first and only practice session for this weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix, with the Ferrari driver leading team mate Charles Leclerc and Mercedes' George Russell.

Due to the final Sprint event of the season taking place on Saturday, today’s FP1 offered the teams and drivers their last chance to finalise their set-ups and carry out any final preparations before qualifying later today.

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As such, it was a busy hour at the Interlagos circuit. The session got underway in warm and dry conditions and Max Verstappen was amongst those ready to get going, with the world champion leading the queue of drivers in the pit lane waiting for the green light to show.

Everybody barring the Williams duo and Daniel Ricciardo was out on track as soon as the session began. With the weather forecast suggesting a 20% chance of rain falling during the hour, some may have been keen to get some running in just in case of changing conditions, though it remained dry throughout.

All cars were running the hard tyre in their opening laps. There seemed to be trouble for Esteban Ocon, who reported a sideways screw on his front tyre. Meanwhile Verstappen – who was quick to set the early pace – explained that his seat was flexing, though was reassured by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase that it was not a reliability concern.

Brazil 2023

Practice 1 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1SAI1:11.732
2LEC+0.108s
3RUS+0.133s
4HUL+0.196s
5ALB+0.312s
View Full Results

Sainz was the first to have a slight wobble after 10 minutes of running, with the Ferrari losing the rear after taking too much kerb. The Scuderia weren’t quite matching the pace of Red Bull and Mercedes, as Verstappen and Sergio Perez led the way in the early stages from Lewis Hamilton and Russell, but the Italian team put an extensive amount of laps in during the session as they looked to address their tyre wear issues.

Fernando Alonso – who will be keen to bounce back this weekend following two consecutive DNFs – was forced to pit after being informed that his car had picked up a puncture, resulting in him having to put on a new set of hard tyres. Soon afterwards, Yuki Tsunoda put himself at the top of the timesheets after being the first to strap on the medium tyres, before being toppled by Russell on the same compound.

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As the hour reached the halfway point, Russell remained in P1 as a range of strategies played out across the pack. There was drama between Nico Hulkenberg and Lando Norris, with the pair making contact as Norris attempted to pass the slow-moving Haas. The incident was noted by the stewards to be investigated after the session.

This didn’t stop Hulkenberg and team mate Kevin Magnussen from putting themselves high up on the timesheets during their runs on the soft tyre, while many others remained on the hard and medium compounds.

With the wind picking up as the hour reached its final 10 minutes, the likes of Sainz and Leclerc opted to practice some qualifying runs on the soft tyre. This helped the Ferrari duo to slot into P1 and P2 respectively, pushing Russell down to third.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 03: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG

Russell was the winner of the Sao Paolo Grand Prix in 2022

Hulkenberg held onto fourth in a mixed order, from Alex Albon in fifth and Lance Stroll in sixth. Pierre Gasly, Zhou Guanyu, Logan Sargeant – who experienced an issue in the second half of the session that seemed to cause his front tyre to lift off the ground through some corners – and Magnussen rounded out the top 10.

Alonso ended the hour in 11th, with Hamilton in 12th and the AlphaTauri pair of Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo in 13th and 14th. Ocon followed in 15th, ahead of Verstappen down in 16th. Both he and Perez – in 18th – only used the hard tyres during the session.

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Valtteri Bottas placed in P17, while the McLaren pair of Norris and Oscar Piastri completed the order in P19 and P20.

As many teams did not run the soft tyre in this sole practice session, this poses many questions ahead of qualifying. The teams and drivers will now get ready for that, which kicks off at 1500 local time.

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