Max Verstappen arrived on the track in time to participate in the first free practice session of the Saudi Arabian GP and the world champion immediately gave a taste of Red Bull’s potential: the Dutchman with the soft tires printed a 1′ 29″617 which was one second faster than the FP1 of 2022. The time is the result of the improvement of the single-seaters with ground effect and the interventions on the track’s curbs. The Jeddah track offered the riders greater grip than that the teams expected.
Verstappen, not satisfied with the initial set-up, made an important change to the set-up, lowering the car slightly and running with the softer compound. Max, the only driver to break through the 1’30” barrier, left his teammate Sergio Perez more than four tenths behind, confirming that the RB19 remains the reference car for everyone.
And as a second force we find Aston Martin with Fernando Alonso, third, ahead of teammate, Lance Stroll. The Spaniard with 1’30″315 confirms the potential of the AMR23 with a gap of 698 thousandths, leaving the Canadian three tenths behind. The “Verdona” with more relaxed wings showed a top speed more suitable for overtaking than the one we had recorded in Bahrain.
Aston Martin, Mercedes client teams, was once again in front of the two black arrows: this time George Russell preceded Lewis Hamilton by 14 thousandths, but paying a second from the top, a sign that in Brackley they have not yet found the way to development.
And the Ferraris? You don’t have to worry about them missing. Carlos Sainz is seventh at 1″307 from Verstappen. It is evident that this is not the margin of the red from the Milton Keynes team: the two reds worked according to the race and did not try to perform in the flying lap, to obtain useful information with a more aerodynamic set-up with the rear wing equipped on both cars with a single pylon.The team from Maranello also changed the internal combustion engine and the MGU-H, starting a cycle of rotations without penalty.
Sainz finished seventh, while Charles Leclerc didn’t even finish in the top 10 by a second and a half behind. Yet the Prancing Horse team doesn’t seem concerned about completing this phase of study which confirmed limited tire degradation compared to Sakhir.
Pierre Gasly popped up behind the Spaniard’s Ferrari eighth with the Alpine ahead of a surprising Alexander Albon with a Williams still in evidence. The Anglo-Thai was placed behind Yuki Tsunoda bearer of AlphaTauri. The Japanese defended himself as well as he could with the AT04, while Nyck De Vries suffers more and gives him four tenths finishing 13th. Too…
Esteban Ocon is 12th with the Alpine rosina 63 thousandths behind Leclerc. Oscar Piastri put McLaren in 14th place, while Lando Norris is very last two and a half seconds from the top: it is clear that the Englishman has done a job of verifying the various modifications that have been brought about by Woking. The MCL60 continues to suffer, a sign that it was not born well.
The Haas did not shine either with Nico Hulkenberg, 15th, by a hair’s breadth ahead of Kevin Magnussen. Logan Sargeant defends himself with the second FW45: the American got behind the two Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou, very low on engine and not in great shape. The more than two seconds of detachment prove it. Luckily, at least Norris is behind it, but it’s a meager satisfaction…
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