Sainz leads Ferrari 1-2 in São Paulo F1 GP FP1; McLaren and Red Bull down the order

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Carlos Sainz led a Ferrari 1-2 in first practice for the 2023 São Paulo GP, ahead of his team-mate Charles Leclerc and last year’s race winner George Russell. McLaren and Red Bull finished the session down the order – Red Bull did not run the soft tyres, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez 16th and 18th respectively, whilst McLaren aborted their runs on the red-coloured tyres, leaving Norris and Piastri down in 19th and 20th.

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari

In cloudy skies around the Interlagos, with rain sniffing around, many drivers took to the circuit straightaway in order to get some laps on the board in the one and only practice session of the weekend.

Reigning world champion Max Verstappen set the early benchmark of the session, with a time of a 1:13.950 on the hard tyres getting the Dutchman to the top after five minutes had gone.

He shortly reported over the radio that his seat was “flexing”, but the team stated it was not a reliability concern and he could stay out.

Last year’s São Paulo GP winner, George Russell had a tricky start to the session, sitting in seventh and over 1.7s back from Verstappen, reporting the traction was “very poor” in his W14.

Out in the first corner in Mexico, Sergio Perez looks to bounce back in São Paulo, with his first lap on the hard tyres leaving him just shy of four tenths back from his team-mate, who had just set a new benchmark of a 1:13.138 to retain his top spot, with Perez soon responding and setting a time just 0.025s slower than Verstappen’s.

Nico Hulkenberg set an impressive lap in his recently upgraded Haas to go fourth fastest with 15 minutes of the session gone, just half-a-second behind Verstappen, also on the hard tyres.

With a quarter of the session, the classified order of the top ten was: Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Russell, Norris, Alonso, Ocon, Bottas and Ricciardo.

Fernando Alonso got his Aston Martin up to sixth place with two-thirds of the session remaining, six tenths back from Verstappen’s leading time, but soon had to return to to the pits, as he picked up a slow puncture in his rear left tyre, curtailing his run on the hard tyres.

Yuki Tsunoda was the first driver to put on the medium tyres, and went straight to the top of the timings, with a time of a 1:12.802 leaving him a third of a second clear of Verstappen.

Russell was next to get on the medium tyres, and set a blistering time of a 1:11.865 to go to the top of the pile, nearly a full second ahead of Max Verstappen’s hard tyre lap.

Back on track after his puncture, Fernando Alonso set a good time on the hard tyres, going second fastest, just three quarters of a second behind Russell’s medium tyre lap.

With half of the session remaining, the classified order of the top ten was: Russell, Alonso, Verstappen, Tsunoda, Perez, Hamilton, Norris, Leclerc, Hulkenberg and Sainz.

The bottom part of the table consisted of: Piastri, Stroll, Albon, Ocon, Bottas, Ricciardo, Gasly, Sargeant, Zhou and Kevin Magnussen – back from his heavy shunt last time out in Mexico.

Last year’s pole-sitter at Interlagos, Magnussen was the first driver to put on the soft tyres, and jumped up to third place in his Haas, just under eight tenths back from Russell.

Lando Norris had a brief contact with Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas heading into Junção, with the two cars touching front to rear, but no damage done.

The German would then go on the soft tyres, and set a time good enough for second place, just six one hundredths of second back from Russell, setting the fastest middle and final sectors.

With a third of the session remaining, the classified order of the top ten was: Russell, Hulkenberg, Magnussen, Alonso, Verstappen, Tsunoda, Perez, Gasly, Ocon and Hamilton.

Logan Sargeant missed the apex of turn one in his first flying on the soft tyres, and was confused by his car being “completely off the ground” at the front axle, later reporting something “wrong” in his FW45, with his front tyres off the ground, he reported to be driving with “two wheels”.

Alex Albon, on the other Williams, went thrud fastest on the soft tyres, just under two tenths back from Russell.

The two McLarens were on flying laps on the soft tyres with 10 minutes to the end. Piastri setting the fastest first and middle sector before aborting his lap, and Lando Norris doing the same shortly before, the Papaya cars perhaps hiding their true pace ahead of qualifying.

Nearing the end of the session, Hulkenberg reported he “lost power” after running over the kerbs in turn two.

Zhou Guanyu was the next driver to put on the soft tyres, lifting his Alfa Romeo up to sixth place with five minutes of the session remaining.

Carlos Sainz got his Ferrari to the front of the field with just over three minutes of the session remaining, with a lap of 1:11.732 on the soft tyres getting him just over a tenth clear of Russell. His team-mate and pole-sitter last time out in Mexico, Leclerc went second fastest, just a tenth back from the Spaniard.

Two notable absences from the top ten were that of the two McLarens and Red Bulls – the former deciding to abort their soft tyre runs and the latter not even putting on the softest compounds, which left two of the most competitive teams down in the bottom five of the one and only practice session of the weekend.

Source: Formula 1