Verstappen quickest in Dutch GP FP1 ahead of Alonso and Hamilton; Williams show impressive pace

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As Formula 1 2023 got back to action after the summer break, normal service resumed at the front of the field with Max Verstappen dominating proceedings in his home turf at Zandvoort. Behind him, Fernando Alonso returned to the front with his updated Aston Martin, with Lewis Hamilton just behind. The two Williams cars of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant showed impressive pace throughout the session, finishing in the top seven with both cars.

Photo Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

Drivers and teams hit the circuit for the first time since the end of July, with first practice for the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix.

With the teams required to have two FP1 outings for rookie drivers during the season, Ferrari opted to fulfill part of the requirement on Fridat at Zandvoort, with Robert Shwartzman taking the wheel of Carlos Sainz’s SF-23.

Championship leader and home hero Max Verstappen was one of the first cars out on track, for the delight of the crowd, setting the fastest lap time early on using the hard tyres, with a time of a 1:15.393, before being beaten to P1 by George Russell’s updated Mercedes with a time of a 1:14.901.

As the session hit its 10-minute mark, Lewis Hamilton took the top spot, also on the hard tyres, but was quickly replaced by Verstappen once again going faster on the same hard tyres by nearly 0.7s.

One notable absence on-track early on in the session was that of the two Aston Martin cars of Alonso and Stroll – the team is carrying the most upgrades on its car during this weekend and will need to maximize track time in order to optimize their new solutions.

Whilst lap times are very much unrepresentative early on, the two Williams cars of Albon and Sargeant showed strong form in the first 15 minutes, sitting with both cars in the top 6.

The order of the top 10 after 20 minutes of running was: Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Sargeant, Gasly, Ricciardo, Albon, Ocon, Russell.

Fernando Alonso joined the circuit in his Aston Martin as the session hit its one-third of duration, using the medium tyres and setting the 14th fastest time, only ahead of Ferrari rookie Shwartzman, of those that had set lap times.

His team-mate Lance Stroll reported a “funny noise” in his Aston Martin and was asked to box by the team. The Canadian missed his media duties on Thursday after having to recover from an infection.

On his third FP1 back since replacing de Vries at the Hungarian GP, Daniel Ricciardo showed strong form to set the 6th best time of the session with 36 minutes remaining, just over 1.1 seconds slower than Verstappen.

Alonso was the first driver to have a trip down the gravel trap at the exit of turn 11, after locking up his tyres and going straight on, but had no major damage to his car.

As the session approached its halfway mark, Williams fitted Logan Sargeant with the soft compound tyres, and the American made the most of it to go straight to the top of the times, with a time of a 1:12.814, over three tenths clear of Verstappen.

Sergio Perez was the next driver to fit the soft tyres and go to the top, with a time of a 1:12.439, and was followed by Alex Albon’s Williams, with a super impressive time from the Thai driver leaving him only eight thousandths of a second behind the Red Bull – with the caveat of not knowing fuel loads and engine modes of either car. Pierre Gasly was the next to cross the line using the softest tyres, and went fourth fastest behind the two Williams’ and Perez.

Zhou Guanyu complained of being “completely blocked” by Pierre Gasly’s Alpine in the final sector in what was the first of possibly many impeding instances throughout the weekend on what is a tricky and twisty circuit around the dunes.

As the session reached two-thirds of its duration completed, the order of the top 10 was: Perez, Albon, Sargeant, Ocon, Gasly, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Magnussen, Leclerc and Hamilton.

Fresh from signing a new contract with Haas for 2024, Nico Hulkenberg found the wall on the exit of turn 13 with 18 minutes remaining. The German went spinning through the gravel and lightly hit the wall with his front wing, causing the first red flag of the weekend. Although there was no major damage on his VF-23, it was beached in the gravel, meaning the German wasn’t able to take any further part in the session.

Just before the session was interrupted, Lewis Hamilton was on a flying lap on the soft tyres and over 0.3s up on Perez’s time in the first sector alone, but couldn’t finish it due to the red flag.

The session restarted with just over 10 minutes left on the clock, and Max Verstappen went straight to the top of the times, with a storming lap of a 1:11.852 putting him nearly half-a-second clear of Perez. Lewis Hamilton then went P2 behind the Dutchman, just under 0.4s down, before being beaten to second by Fernando Alonso’s updated Aston Martin – the Spaniard set a lap a quarter of a second slower than the Dutchman.

FP1 stand-in Shwartzman reported over the radio that the rear of his Ferrari was “super unstable” as he set the 19th best time of the session, ahead of only Lance Stroll, who didn’t set a lap after having a power unit issue in his AMR23.

Verstappen was pushing his RB19 until the very end of the session, even finding the gravel trap at turn 11 as the chequered flag fell, but no major damage was done.

The classified order of the top ten at the end of the first hour of practice for the 2023 Dutch GP was: Verstappen, Alonso, Hamilton, Perez, Albon, Norris, Sargeant, Piastri, Tsunoda and Ocon.

Source: Formula 1