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FP1: Stroll leads Piastri and Verstappen in busy first practice as F1 returns to China

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Lance Stroll of Canada and Aston Martin F1 Team prepares to drive in the

Lance Stroll set the pace for Aston Martin during Friday’s first free practice session ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, leading the way from McLaren rival Oscar Piastri and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

After a five-year absence, the Shanghai International Circuit has made a welcome return to the F1 calendar for the 2024 season, with the venue also hosting the first Sprint weekend of the campaign – meaning FP1 took on even greater importance than usual.

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Facing just one hour to get their cars in order for Sprint qualifying, the 60-minute session featured laps from start to finish, as drivers attempted to get (back) to grips with a 5.451km comprising a mixture of high, medium and low-speed corners.

Indeed, a wide range of run plans were on show as practice developed, with Pirelli’s hard, medium and soft tyres all making an appearance across the opening 15 minutes, before a brief pause to proceedings as marshals dealt with a small fire on the trackside grass at Turn 7.

China 2024

Practice 1 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1STR1:36.302
2PIA+0.327s
3VER+0.358s
4PER+0.388s
5HUL+0.799s
View Full Results

When the action resumed and drivers squabbled for track position, TV cameras picked up a close encounter between Lewis Hamilton and Piastri at the final corner, with the Mercedes driver radioing that “I just got pushed off” by the McLaren as he approached on the outside.

After that drama, which saw Hamilton given a black-and-white flag for crossing the pit entry line, the times continued to tumble and, at the end of it all, Stroll surprised with a late soft-shod effort of 1m 36.302s, putting him three-tenths clear of Piastri and Verstappen.

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Sergio Perez wound up fourth in the other Red Bull, as Haas pair Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen also benefitted from last-gasp runs on the soft tyres to place fifth and sixth respectively, just ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.

Alex Albon, Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10 in their Williams, RB and Kick Sauber machines, with the latter’s team mate, Zhou Guanyu, placing 11th as he became the first Chinese F1 driver to compete on home soil.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Zhou Guanyu of China driving the (24) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari on track

Shanghai ended a five-year break from F1 when FP1 began, with home hero Zhou in action

Yuki Tsunoda was 12th in the second of the RB cars, followed by Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who posted their soft efforts much earlier, and the Williams of Logan Sargeant, who lamented a “terrible” push lap.

Lando Norris had been on course for a rapid lap on the red-marked rubber but the McLaren man peeled into the pits after posting two purple sector times, leaving him 16th from Mercedes pair George Russell and Hamilton, who posted their best laps on hard tyres.

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Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was another to set their fastest time on hards, winding up 19th after a trip to the escape road at the pit entry, which Piastri later emulated, as the other Alpine of Pierre Gasly brought up the rear amid an ERS (Energy Recovery System) insulation issue.

Drivers and teams will now have a couple of hours to dig through the data and apply their learnings from first practice before returning to the track for Sprint qualifying, which is scheduled to begin at 1530 local time.

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