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Verstappen sets opening pace at Jeddah


Ahead of today's opening practice session the air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 46 degrees.

Upgrades for this weekend are as follows:

Red Bull has a revised Beam Wing and Rear Wing (Flap & Endplate), Ferrari a Front Wing (Endplate), Beam Wing and Floor Edge, while Mercedes has a new Rear Wing (Flap) and Floor Fence.

At Alpine there's a new Beam Wing, while McLaren has an updated Rear Wing and Diffuser and Alfa Romeo new Front Wing (Flaps) and Rear Wing (Main Plane).

At Aston Martin its Front Wing (Flaps), Rear Wing (Flap) and Beam Wing, at Haas new Front Wing (Flaps) and Rear Wing (Flap), AlphaTauri has a new Rear Wing, while those busy little beavers at Williams have an upgraded Front Wing (Gurneys), Beam Wing, Rear Brake Winglets, Front Brake Ducts (Exit) and Engine Cover (Gurneys).

While the track layout itself remains unchanged from last year, following complaints about visibility and 'blind' corners Driver sightlines, the wall has been moved back at Turns 14 and 20 by 7.5m and 5m respectively.

Also, the fence wall at Turns 8 and 10 have also been adjusted to improve visibility of the corner ahead, while Turns 22 and 23 have been amended with the fence at Turn 23 adjusted and a bevelled kerb added - this is expected to reduce speeds there by approximately 50 km/h.

Finally, 'Rumble Lines' - which cause traction to be lost and slowing cars down have been added at Turns 3, 14, 19, 20, and 21.

The pitlane opens and De Vries leads the way, followed by Bottas, Hulkenberg, Albon and Zhou.

As more drivers head out it's a mixture of hard and medium tyres. That said, Perez heads out on softs.

As one would expect, Perez goes quickest (32.969), ahead of Sainz, Norris, Sargeant and Leclerc, as Alonso heads out on softs.

"He didn't get out of the way, that was dangerous," complains of a much slower Zhou on the racing line.

Stroll heads out on softs, leaving Verstappen as the only no-show.

No sooner has Alonso gone quickest with a 32.838 than Hamilton (hards) responds with a 32.665.

Perez retakes the top spot with a 31.486, as Sainz goes second ahead of Albon and Hamilton.

As Leclerc goes second (32.005), Russell encounters a slow Sainz on the racing line. The on-board shows just what a scary track this is, a situation not helped by the fact that it is still quite green.

Alonso retakes the top spot with a 31.262. Teammate Stroll is currently 16th (34.131).

Ocon has yet to post a time, while, after 18 minutes, Verstappen has yet to appear.

At which point we learn that Sainz has taken on a new ICE (internal combustion engine), as have Leclerc and Norris. All without penalty.

More worryingly, Norris and Leclerc have taken on new MGU-Hs.

Verstappen finally heads out... on softs.

Perez goes quickest with a 30.592.

On his first flying lap Verstappen goes third with a 31.564, 0.972s off the pace.

Alonso ups the ante with a 30.509.

Gasly goes fourth and Ocon fifth, both on mediums and both over 1.3s off the pace.

At which point a 30.494 sees Verstappen go top, despite a "lot of understeer" through Turn 22. He subsequently improves to 30.062.

As driver make the switch to softs, Hulkenberg goes fourth (31.562), only to be demoted when Albon posts a 31.030.

At 'half-time', it's: Verstappen, Alonso, Perez, Albon, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Leclerc, Sainz, Ocon and Gasly.

On 8 lap old softs, Verstappen improves to 29.815., as Russell goes fourth (30.771) on the softs.

Alonso bolts on a fresh set of softs as teammate Stroll improves to 9th with a 31.178.

"Struggling for grip," reports Hamilton on 6-lap old tyres. "How much time are people finding," he asks. "Currently thinking about half a second," he is told.

Alpine is yet to fit the softs, as was the case in Bahrain in opening practice.

"These brakes are completely rubbish," declares Gasly after a minor excursion.

Norris gets a black and white flag for failing to follow the race director's instructions.

"There's a bit of a strange smell from the car," reports Perez. Following Verstappen's tummy bug we expected that particular call to come from the Dutchman's car.

With seven minutes remaining, all bar Alonso are on track.

Hamilton having to take drastic avoiding action in order to miss a slow Tsunoda.

Stroll kicks up a cloud of dust as he runs wide in Turn 22 for the second time.

Hamilton and Albon switch to hards, while the likes of Piastri, Magnussen, Sargeant and Bottas return to mediums.

Meanwhile, on 3-lap old softs, Verstappen improves to 29.662.

It's noticeable that the Ferraris are bouncing on the main straight.

Only quickest in the final sector, Verstappen improves yet again, crossing the line at 29.617.

A late improvement sees Stroll go fourth (30.577), to put the Astons third and fourth.

De Vries completed the most laps (30), ahead of Russell, Hamilton, Leclerc and Sargeant, who all completed 26, while Norris (21) completed the least.

Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Perez, Alonso, Stroll, Russell, Hamilton, Sainz, Gasly, Albon and Tsunoda.

Leclerc is eleventh, ahead of Ocon, de Vries, Piastri, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Sargeant, Bottas, Zhou and Norris.

Check out our Friday gallery from Jeddah here.


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1. Posted by alvarezh3, 17/03/2023 15:58

"@ Kenji

Yes, it appears they do have real speed. Ferrari could be a little faster, we have to wait for qualy. But, during the race, if Ferrari has not fixed its tire issues, then A.M. could benefit and end up in the podium once again."

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2. Posted by kenji, 17/03/2023 15:24

"Great to se AM back up there...hovering in close proximity even at this early stage. My greatest worry for quali is traffic once the real action starts. "

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