Verstappen in the morning lead at the start of pre-season

In an opening session with a red-flag interruption caused by an early pit stop by Aston Martin’s Felipe Drugovich, who replaces the injured Lance Stroll, reigning world champion Verstappen traded best lap times with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Sainz’s 1m33.253s led for most of the morning but were beaten by Verstappen’s 1m32.959s set 35 minutes before the lunch interval.

All teams enjoyed a productive race, as only Drugovich lost a significant amount of track time due to what the team called an ECU-related sensor issue, with relatively stable technical regulations allowing teams to quickly get up to speed with their 2023 F1 cars.

To underscore this point, the majority of teams ran a Grand Prix distance on the morning of the opener, primarily focused on data collection, aero racing and installation work.

Verstappen, whose best lap time was almost a second quicker than his fastest lap on day one of Bahrain testing last year, finished the morning nearly three-tenths faster than Ferrari’s Sainz.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Williams topped the morning lap standings with Alex Albon over 74 laps, with the Thai driver also taking third place on the timesheet with a 1m33.671s, ahead of Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo who took fourth.

George Russell, who was first on track this morning, was fifth for Mercedes, which put the German manufacturer 1.2 seconds off the absolute pace.

Nico Hulkenberg, back in F1, also enjoyed a strong morning for his new Haas team with sixth place, a quarter of a second behind Russell, as Drugovich came on a late lap to move up to seventh. on the times of Aston Martin.

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda completed 46 laps in the session en route to eighth in qualifying, ahead of former team-mate Pierre Gasly who clocked 60 laps for Alpine.

F1 rookie Oscar Piastri started his season with 52 laps for McLaren as he finished the morning timesheet in 10th place.

Nine of the 10 teams will change drivers for the afternoon session, except for Red Bull as world champion Verstappen gets the full opening day of the RB19.

Position Driver Car Time Towers Gap
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’32.959 71
2 carlos sainz Ferrari 1’33.253 72 +0.294s
3 Alexander Albon williams 1’33.671 74 +0.712s
4 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 1’33.723 67 +0.764s
5 george russell mercedes 1’34.174 69 +1.215s
6 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1’34.424 51 +1.465s
7 Felipe Drugovitch Aston Martin 1’34.564 40 +1.605s
8 Yuki Tsunoda Alpha Tauri 1’34.671 46 +1.712s
9 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1’34.822 60 +1.863s
ten Oscar Piastri McLaren 1’34.888 52 +1.929s

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