Max Verstappen doesn’t give an inch, ever. The two-time world champion was fastest in the first free practice session of the Australian GP with an impressive time: the Dutchman clocked a 1’18″790 which is over a second better than last year’s FP1 The leap is not due to the fourth DRS zone, but to the growth in the performance of the 2023 single-seaters. Max dedicated himself to developing the RB19 with the softs, while Sergio Perez worked on the mediums with two separate programs to collect more information before the Mexican tried the dry lap.
At the start of the session, Verstappen accused little of us at the gearbox, while then he suffered from a not perfectly balanced car, so much so that he even ran into an unusual spin. Nonetheless, the orange trimmed half a second from his teammate. Between the two, Red Bull was able to slip Lewis Hamilton with the W14: the seven-times world champion arrived 0.0433s from the world champion, showing a good adaptability of the silver arrow to the citizen of Melbourne, while George Russell is ninth at almost a second, having devoted himself to another operational plan.
Aston Martin did not disappoint: Fernando Alonso placed the AMR23 in fourth place with a gap of just 24 thousandths from Perez’s RB19. The Spaniard was sent to attack by the Silverstone team, while Lance Stroll, tenth, thought more about the race, differentiating his work plan like the others.
And Ferrari? The redhead has started well, considering her difficult moment. Charles Leclerc is fifth followed by Carlos Sainz separated by a couple of tenths. The Monegasque is attached to Perez and Alonso and one tenth from Hamilton: only Verstappen is out of reach. Charles rode the SF-23 equipped with the standard floor, while Sainz with the one “parked” in Jeddah with the rise in the trailing edge in front of the rear wheel. It’s a Ferrari that hasn’t looked for performance, but that has worked diligently in understanding the car and seems to have put on the track a car that is coherent with the track at the antipodes. There isn’t the feeling of bewilderment seen on the faces of the Prancing Horse team in the first two rounds, as if the key to the matter has been found.
We will see. Meanwhile, Sainz (who is smelling another engine change, after the Alfa Romeo and Haas customer teams switched to the second power unit) carried out a mini long run with the hard tires that didn’t work in Arabia Arabia, and kept a very good pace. We’ll understand better in the second round, but the redhead looks less awkward than the one seen previously.
Lando Norris appears in seventh place with the best McLaren who raises his head in front of Pierre Gasly’s Alpine eighth. Just outside the top 10 is a positive Alexander Albon 11th with Williams. The FW45 looks less bad than expected: Logan Sargeant also moved up to 15th place before having to pull over his car due to a mechanical problem and forcing the race direction to display the second red flag with less than 5 minutes to go. The session is no longer resumed. It should be noted that there was another interruption when there were 23 minutes left before the chess bandeira: the GPS signal went down and the teams were left without data, so it made no sense to continue filming. It took about ten minutes to restore the information and the shift resumed.
Oscar Piastri, a young man who races at home with McLaren, is 12th ahead of the first Haas, that of Nico Hulkenberg, while Kevin Magnussen, having difficulty finding the measurements on the Melbourne track, is even last after a series of smudges in the escape routes.
Nyck De Vries put the AlphaTauri in 14th place and the Dutchman did only 17th better than Yuki Tsunoda: the Japanese lost a bit of confidence after going off due to a mistake in braking. He didn’t touch the barriers, but his AT04 bounced several times with the bottom in the sand and he certainly didn’t enjoy it.
Esteban Ocon is 16th with the other Alpine: the Frenchman did not impress, just like the two Alfa Romeos in the shade with Valtteri Bottas 18th and Guanyu Zhou 19th. Perhaps the C43 must include the aerodynamic innovations that have been brought with a redesigned nose and front wing.
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