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Sainz heads Ferrari 1-2 in opening session

NEWS STORY
08/04/2022

Ahead of today's opening practice session the air temperature is 20.8 degrees C, while the track temperature is 37.8 degrees C.

While the morning sessions in the preceding races were pretty much redundant - due to the fact that qualifying and the race took place at night - here in Melbourne every session counts.

As expected, in the break since Saudi Arabia the teams have been processing the data and working on upgrades with Red Bull bringing a new front wing endplate and Ferrari a new diffuser.

Alpine has a new floor and rear brake cover, McLaren new winglets (rear corner), Aston Martin a new rear wing and Haas a new diffuser.

Williams has a whole host of new parts including a beam wing, floor, front wing and front brake duct, while Mercedes and AlphaTauri have nothing.

Of course it's not only the cars that have had updates, for the Albert Park track has been seriously revised since F1 last raced here in 2019.

The aim of the upgrades, which includes the removal of the old chicane is to increase lap speeds, decrease lap times and offer more opportunity for overtaking, all with the intention of improving the enjoyment factor for drivers and fans alike.

To this end, this weekend - and let's bear in mind the fun and games involving Leclerc and Verstappen in the opening races - we have four - count 'em four - DRS zones.

A late arrival at the track was Magnussen, who was excused all media duties after reporting ill with a stomach ache, however he fully intends taking part in the session.

The lights go green and Bottas leads the way, followed by Perez, Zhou, Vettel, Norris, Stroll and Tsunoda.

Most are on mediums though Perez, sporting a large aero rake, is straight on to the softs. "Normal racing line," the Mexican is told, "stay off the kerbs."

In no time at all there are 15 drivers on track, including Hamilton and local hero Ricciardo.

All three compounds are in use.

Bottas posts an exploratory 26.761 only for Norris to respond with a 25.009.

As Alonso pits, having failed to post a time, all bar he and Sainz are on track.

Norris ups the ante with a 23.066 as Stroll goes second, ahead of Ricciardo, Bottas, Tsunoda and Zhou.

Stroll accuses Hamilton of impeding him at Turn 13. "Yes, we've seen him," replies his engineer."

On the softs, Verstappen goes second with a 23.101 as Leclerc goes third (23.389).

No sooner has Stroll gone second with a 23.079, than Verstappen stops the clock at 21.625.

Leclerc improves to second with a 21.929, ahead of Ocon, Ricciardo, Norris and Stroll.

Eleven minutes in and Sainz finally heads out.

The stewards deem that no further action is required over that Hamilton incident, likewise Verstappen and Latifi, as Sainz appears to get in the way of Zhou, much to the Chinese driver's frustration. "What is he doing," he cries, "he blocked me!"

"The steering is slightly bent," claims Gasly.

Sainz' first flying lap is only good enough for 16th (25.368), though he subsequently improves to 11th with a 23.798.

Purples in all three sectors see Verstappen consolidate his top spot with a 21.140, before improving yet again (20.909).

At the other end of the timesheets, Magnussen, who has completed just 2 laps, is the only driver yet to post a time.

"There is something in the middle of the track... last corner," reports Ocon, as a replay spots something falling from the rear of a Red Bull.

The session is red flagged but as the errant piece of carbonfibre is recovered the session resumes, with Sainz, Russell and Schumacher among the first out.

Having shed his aero rake, Perez is back on track on fresh softs. Currently 12th (23.137), he improves to seventh with a 22.402. However, he is demoted when Sainz posts a 21.429 to go second... on hards.

The stewards will investigate the Zhou/Sainz incident after the session.

Bang on half-time, Magnussen heads out again.

As most now switch to the softs, Vettel improves to third (21.661), ahead of Perez and Hamilton.

Despite only being quickest in the final sector, Leclerc goes top with a 20.825.

Magnussen kicks up a great cloud of dust as he runs wide after locking-up at Turn 3.

A 20.626 sees Verstappen retake the top spot as Bottas goes third with a 21.247.

As Hamilton goes third with a 21.027, Sainz goes quickest overall with a 20.325. With Leclerc posting 20.377 this makes it a Ferrari 1-2.

Out come the yellows when Alonso spins at Turn 11.

Leclerc, having gone off at Turn 1, is told that most drivers are finding "around three-tenths on their second push lap".

Norris goes fourth (20.878), ahead of Ocon and Hamilton.

Sainz consolidates his top spot with a 19.806 as Magnussen improves to 18th with a 23.755.

"I have a problem with the engine," reports Vettel as he grinds to a halt after Turn 10. Given a number of possible remedies, he replies: "Forget it, it's gone," as he climbs from the, now smoking, Aston Martin.

The session is red flagged as the car is recovered.

The session resumes with just over ten minutes remaining and in no time at all there are 14 drivers on track.

"Oh, woah... that Red Bull was in a dangerous sport there..." claims Russell after almost tripping up over Perez following an unsafe release for the Mercedes driver.

Ocon has completed the most laps (23), ahead of Tsunoda, Russell and Gasly all on 22. Schumacher (11) has completed the least.

Perez improves to third (20.399) having gone quickest in the second sector.

"These ******* Red Bulls are getting in the way everywhere," complains Russell.

As the clock ticks down, all bar Vettel are on track.

The session ends. Sainz is quickest, ahead of Leclerc, Perez, Verstappen, Norris, Ocon, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Alonso and Bottas.

Tsunoda is eleventh, ahead of Russell, Vettel, Gasly, Zhou, Stroll, Albon, Magnussen, Latifi and Schumacher.

Check out our Friday gallery from Melbourne, here.

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