SAUDI ARABIA: Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen ended up on top after the opening practice session for the Saudi Arabian GP, finishing 0.438s ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez.
Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin rounded out the top three, just under a second behind Verstappen.
The sweltering Friday afternoon saw track temperatures rise to 42’C in Jeddah, where F1 will race for the third time at the Corniche Circuit, the host for the Saudi Arabian GP.
Perez needed a two-point turn to exit the Red Bull garage due to the tight pit lane, while Verstappen arrived late after a stomach bug delayed his flight.
Perez initially took the lead with a 1:32.969 on soft tires, followed by Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari on hard tires. Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes briefly topped the leaderboard, but Perez regained the top spot with a 1:31.486.
While Verstappen was initially in third place, he upped his pace and finished on top with a 1:29.617 on his eighth lap using soft tires.
Despite not being entirely happy with his car’s handling, he continued to increase his pace and finished the session in the lead.
Mercedes’ George Russell finished in fifth place, ahead of teammate Hamilton, while Pierre Gasly struggled with his Alpine’s brakes and finished in eighth place.
Lando Norris of McLaren was shown a black-and-white flag for failing to follow the race director’s event notes as he returned to the track.
The opening practice session saw changes to the circuit to improve driver visibility, but drivers continued to face challenges with traffic and slower cars ahead.
Ferrari had three front wings laid out for comparison tests, while AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries was the only one of the 20 without any Jeddah experience and needed the laps.
Despite these challenges, the first practice session gave fans an exciting glimpse of what to expect in the upcoming Saudi Arabian GP.
Verstappen will be looking to continue his form in the second practice session and secure pole position for the race on Sunday.
The second practice session is scheduled for later on Friday, with the final practice session and qualifying set to happen on Saturday. F1 will race at the Saudi Arabian GP on Sunday, March 19.
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