Australian GP 2023

MARCH 31, 2023

Practice 1 Report - Verstappen fastest in first practice

Max Verstappen
© Red Bull

By Peter Habicht

A chaotic session in clear but windy conditions this morning in Melbourne saw Max Verstappen led the field with a time of 1m18.790s, confirming he’s the favorite for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

Verstappen complained all session the rear of his RB19 was too light and had a couple of big moments before eventually ending his day with a massive spin over the kerb on the exit of Turn 4, damaging the floor of his car and also completely destroying his set of soft tires. Luckily for Verstappen, two minutes later Logan Sargeant was forced to park his Williams on the inside of Turn 12 bringing out a red flag that meant the end of the session, so his rivals didn’t get much more running than him.

The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton was 0.433s behind him and Red Bull driver Sergio Perez was 0.503s off his teammate Verstappen as teams struggled with grip on a green track surface.

Traffic was an issue during the session because the FIA GPS system stopped working a few minutes into the session, not allowing the teams to know where their cars and the other 18 cars were, so they couldn’t warn their drivers that faster cars were coming behind them. After a few close calls where accidents were avoided by few inches, the session was stopped for ten minutes until the problem was solved.

Aston Martin continues to impress, with Fernando Alonso setting the fourth fastest time, while him teammate Lance Stroll was tenth.

The Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finishing fifth and sixth, with the Scuderia focused more on race preparations as both drivers completed the session with hard tyres, as the team tries to eliminate the pace and degradation issues that affected their race performances in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Lando Norris in the McLaren-Mercedes was seventh quickest, followed by Pierre Gasly in eighth in the AlphaTauri-Honda, and George Russell in ninth the the second Mercedes.

Farther back, Yuki Tsunoda spun heavily in the gravel at turn 1 in his Alpha Tauri, narrowly missing the barriers.

As it has been the case since the start of the season, the pack is tremendously compacted as between Sainz in sixth and Zhou in 19th, there was a gap of just one second, so things are quite open behind Red Bull and the other three faster teams.

Rain is expected for the second free practice scheduled for 4:00p local time today.