Verstappen Dominates in Jeddah FP1

Max Verstappen set the pace in the first practice session of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, leading Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez. Despite challenging winds, the reigning champion showed strong form, closely mirroring his performance from the previous year.

Between the lines

  • Max Verstappen’s lap time of 1m29.659s was nearly identical to his best from last year, showcasing consistency and control in windy conditions.
  • Fernando Alonso slotted into second, indicating Aston Martin’s competitive potential, with Sergio Perez’s new gearbox case not far behind in third.
  • Practice timings may not fully reflect race conditions, as the sessions occur in different times of day, but teams still capitalized on the track time for data gathering.
  • Health concerns for Carlos Sainz didn’t keep him from participating, while Lewis Hamilton faced challenges with car stability.

Go deeper

Despite the nearly 20mph winds sweeping through the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Max Verstappen seemed unfazed as he effortlessly claimed the top spot in the first practice session. His performance was a near carbon copy of last year’s, missing the mark by a hair’s breadth of just 0.042 seconds. This demonstrates not only his skill but also the Red Bull team’s ability to maintain a high level of performance year on year.

verstappen fp1 jeddah 2023

Fernando Alonso’s impressive run placed him second, a mere 0.186 seconds behind Verstappen, suggesting that Aston Martin may be a force to reckon with this season. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez rounded out the top three, with his new gearbox components being put to the test. This update is one of the five permitted changes for the season, hinting at strategic planning from the team.

Mercedes’ George Russell and the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz also showed competitive times, though they trailed behind the leading pack. The practice session’s timing, in the late afternoon, contrasts with the qualifying and race conditions, which take place after dark, making the data collected somewhat less predictive of the weekend’s racing outcomes.

Notably, Lewis Hamilton experienced some difficulties with his car, reporting severe bouncing at the rear axle, an issue that could hamper his performance if not resolved. Meanwhile, Lance Stroll managed to recover from an early encounter with the barriers, indicating that the circuit’s challenges were felt by even the most experienced drivers.

In the midfield, Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda opted not to use the soft tires, which may explain their positions further down the time sheets. This strategic choice could be a sign of different approaches to tire management and race strategy that will unfold over the weekend.

As teams and drivers wrap up the first practice, the stage is set for an intriguing weekend of racing. With the pecking order starting to take shape, all eyes will be on how the conditions, strategies, and performances evolve in the lead-up to the main event.