Verstappen leads Perez and Ocon in busy Spanish GP FP1

Spread the love

Max Verstappen has started the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix weekend the way he ended in Monaco, leading the field comfortably. The Dutchman set the pace with a time of 1:14.606 – 5.2s quicker than last year’s best time in FP1 due to the removal of the final chicane. His team-mate Sergio Perez was a whopping 0.768s back in P2, and Esteban Ocon continued his good form from Monaco with P3 in the opening session at Spain.

Photo Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

Just five days after a chaotic Monaco GP, Formula One got back on track at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, for the start of round seven of the 2023 world championship.

With clear skies and a new track layout that missed the fiddly final chicane, FP1 got underway as the teams ventured out on track to test their new upgrades – seven of the ten teams brought significant upgrades to their cars, including Ferrari, with a radical change in its sidepod shape.

The Scuderia divided its program, with Carlos Sainz running a new, upgraded sidepod on his Ferrari, and Charles Leclerc using the version that has already been in use throughout this 2023 season, in order to test and compare the two versions.

Fernando Alonso, was one of the first cars out on track, to the delight of the Spanish crowd. The two-time world champion had an array of sensors on his AMR23 to test the team’s new parts.

Along with their own upgrades, teams also used this session to test a new prototype construction of compound that is set to debut at the British GP.

With the new configuration of the circuit, teams started to slightly suffer from an old problem: porpoising. Early on, George Russell reported a “bit of bouncing” on his Mercedes on the run to the new final corner. Sergio Perez soon reported the same problem on his Red Bull.

With a quarter of the session gone, it was a familar Red Bull 1-2 at the top of the timings, with Verstappen leading Perez by just under 0.5s – both on medium tyres – and a further second ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas in P3 on the soft tyres. Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon – podium finisher last time out in Monaco – completing the top five on the prototype tyres.

Max Verstappen was another driver reporting his car bouncing on the way to the final corner, as well as on the run down to turn 10. Lando Norris also reported “porpoising and bottoming” which “upset the car quite a bit” heading into the final turn.

Fernando Alonso was one of the final drivers to set a first meaningful fast lap, putting his AMR23 up to 4th place, just over 0.9s adrift of Verstappen’s earlier benchmark of a 1:15.945.

As the session reached the halfway mark, Max Verstappen was still at the top of the timings, with a run on the soft tyres getting the Dutchman ahead of Perez’s earlier run on the softs as well, with a huge margin of over three-quarters of a second ahead of the Mexican. Kevin Magnussen sat in third place, just over 1s behind both Red Bulls, with Esteban Ocon completing the top five. Home hero Alonso sat in 7th place, just over 1.7s off the pace.

With a third of the session remaining, Alfa Romeo showed some signs of promising pace, with both Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas jumping up to 3rd and 4th respectively, over 1.3s off the pace of the Red Bulls.

Carlos Sainz pushed his upgraded car to the maximum on his first lap on the soft tyres, but could only manage third place, over 1.1s behind Verstappen’s best time, and just under four tenths slower than Perez.

The Spaniard was soon pipped by his team-mate Leclerc, who was running the ‘old-spec’ SF-23 and set a time just under four hundredths faster than Sainz.

With just under 15 minutes remaining, Nyck de Vries got his AlphaTauri up to a lofty third place ahead of both Ferrari cars, and just under 0.9s slower than Max Verstappen.

After a flurry of laps in the final minutes of the session, Fernando Alonso jumped up to P8 after his soft tyre run, behind both Ferrari cars and 1.1s off Verstappen’s 1:14.606. Esteban Ocon moved his Alpine to P3, with a lap just over 0.8s slower than the leader.

Mercedes brought an upgraded car to Spain, after a big overhaul in Monaco, but only featured in the top 10 with one car, as George Russell finished the session in 10th place, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton down in 12th as the chequered flag fell on FP1.

There was late drama at the end of the session, as Logan Sargeant and Pierre Gasly made contact on the way down to turn 10, but luckily no damage for either driver.

Source: F1