Verstappen quickest in opening session


Ahead of today's opening session the air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 40 degrees.

As was the case last week, with this being a night race, this opening session and FP3 tomorrow are unrepresentative of the conditions to be experienced in qualifying and the race, therefore the next hour will largely be used as a test.

In terms of updates, Red Bull has a new Coke/Engine Cover, Rear Wing and Beam Wing, while Mercedes has a new Rear Corner and Ferrari a new Beam Wing and the Rear Wing carried over from the 2023 car and specific to
lower downforce tracks.

McLaren has a new Rear Wing and Beam Wing, while Aston Martin has a new Front Corner and Rear Wing, and Williams a new Beam Wing and Front Corner.

RB has a new Coke/Engine Cover, Cooling Louvres, Front Wing and Rear Wing, while Alpine, Stake and Haas have no updates.

The lights go green and Bottas leads the way, followed by Zhou, Hamilton, Sainz and Ocon.

As more drivers head out it is a mixture of hard and mediums.

Sainz is advised of a 20 km/h headwind on the pit straight.

Bottas gets things underway with a 33.989 but this soon beaten by Hamilton's 32.590.

Norris goes second, ahead of Gasly, Piastri, Leclerc and Stroll.

Leclerc (hard) improves with a 32.253 but is leapfrogged by Perez (32.072).

Verstappen goes third with a 32.409, as drivers on the white-banded rubber fill the first six places, Norris being the quickest medium runner at this stage.

Ocon complains of bouncing in the first sector.

No sooner has Norris gone quickest with a 31.804 than Alonso (hards) responds with a 30.961.

"Oops, I had a touch with the wall," reports Stroll who subsequently pits with damage to his front wing and wheel, possibly the suspension also.

Verstappen goes second, ahead of Leclerc, Hamilton, Perez and Norris.

A 30.806 sees Russell go quickest, as Verstappen goes second ahead of Leclerc and Alonso.

"You've got to fix the rear bouncing, mate," warns Hamilton as his teammate improves to 30.554.

Approaching the half-hour, Albon, Norris and Bottas make the switch to softs.

Norris improves from 31.617 to 30.424 on the softs, just 0.130s up on Russell.

Also on the red-banded rubber, Albon improves to third with a 30.747, only marginally off Norris's pace.

The Alpine drivers also make the switch to the softs, as Verstappen also bolts on a set, as does Russell.

Though quickest in S1, Verstappen is unable to match Russell's time in S2. At the line the Dutchman posts a 30.014 to go top by 0.410s.

However, quickest in S2, Russell responds with a 30.011, much to Toto Wolff's obvious delight.

Sainz (softs) goes fourth with a 30.717, but is subsequently leapfrogged by Hamilton (30.257).

Perez and Alonso opt to stick with hards as opposed to trying the softs. The RB and Haas duos stick with mediums.

Quickest in the opening and final sectors, and on the same set of softs, Verstappen goes quickest with a 29.659.

Sainz improves to third with a 30.164, but remains 0.505s off the pace.

Perez switches to softs, as Leclerc, almost at successive corners, has a discarded plastic bag find its way onto his intakes. "It's like Mario Kart," reports Leclerc, "plastic bags everywhere."

Quickest in the final sector, Perez goes second with a 29.868, 0.209s down on his teammate.

With 14 minutes remaining, Alonso switches to softs.

Gasly gets the black and white flag for failing to follow the race director's instructions in terms of track limits.

Ricciardo reports that he is struggling with the front of his car.

Alonso goes second, improving from 30.961 to 29.659.

Alonso and Sargeant have completed the most laps (23), ahead of Norris, Albon and Bottas (22), while Hulkenberg has completed 15 and his teammate 14, as has Stroll.

With just over three minutes remaining, all bar Ricciardo are on track.

"Don't worry about it, don't worry about it, "Russell is told as he encounters a slow Mercedes on the racing line.

Piastri takes a bumpy ride over the kerb at Turn 11.

The session ends. Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Alonso, Perez, Russell, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Hamilton, Stroll and Albon.

Bottas is eleventh, ahead of Ricciardo, Ocon, Sargeant, Piastri, Tsunoda, Gasly, Zhou, Hulkenberg and Magnussen.

As we said earlier, an unrepresentative session, but no doubt useful for the team in terms of data, if not for this weekend for those that follow.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Jeddah here.

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Published: 07/03/2024
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