Jeddah FP1: Verstappen fastest, Alonso in good shape

Jeddah FP1: Verstappen from Perez, Alonso closest

Jeddah FP1: Verstappen fastest, Alonso in good shape

Max Verstappen kicked off the weekend of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah going fastest at the end of the first practice session.

Stomach bug or not, nothing seems to be able to slow Max Verstappen down, as he went to top of the timing screens after his second timed lap despite only joining the action after 20 minutes from the green light.

Verstappen never relinquished the top spot, while teammate Sergio Perez was second fastest in the sister car over four tenths slower than his teammate.

However, an on form Fernando Alonso was the closest driver to the Bulls, third fastest, albeit almost seven tenths of a second off the pace of the Dutchman.

Buildup towards FP1

It goes without saying that it wasn’t ideal to wait for a fortnight between the Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain and the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix just as we felt the season going.

But it was probably good in a way, as we can digest the outcome of the race at Sakhir, where Red Bull blew everyone away, while Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso sprung the surprise of that weekend with a third place on the Sunday afternoon of March 5.

While Mercedes were clearly in trouble from the start of the race in Bahrain, Ferrari waited until the race was underway to show they still have reliability troubles and excessive tyre degradation.

Being realistic, Red Bull are so damn good they cause a threat of us having a boring season, but let’s play along with their game and wait to see how they fare around a different track layout to Bahrain, the same applying to Aston Martin.

Alonso is insisting to play down his chances in Jeddah; he told Sky Sports F1: “I think it will be a strong circuit for Ferrari, Mercedes as well, I expect them to be fast. Alpine, Alfa Romeo.

“I think within three or four tenths things can change very quickly. It is more of a challenge for us coming to Jeddah for these different conditions. We will see whether we can be competitive,” he added.

As for the teams in trouble, Mercedes and Ferrari, we can look forward to see how or if they bounce back in Jeddah after their dismal start to both their 2023 campaigns, but Ferrari are already on the back foot with Charles Leclerc who will take a 10-place grid penalty for the race for taking a third Electronics Control Unit (ECU).

Alpine didn’t give a definitive idea about their form in Bahrain, and McLaren seem to be in trouble despite Lando Norris insisting otherwise, so let’s see what these two teams deliver this weekend.

The third DRS zone of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit has been tweaked for 2023, while alterations for the walls and kerbs have been applied to improve visibility and safety. As for the tyres this weekend, have a look below…

Jeddah FP1 Session Highlights

Max Verstappen who revealed he has been battling with a stomach bug all week, causing him to cancel his Thursday media commitments after delaying his flight, was back in action for practice, fit and ready to get going.

Also not in top health is Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who caught a cold causing him to lose his voice when speaking to the media on Thursday.

Ferrari confirmed that both cars will be using a new power unit as a precaution, while Sergio Perez has a new gearbox, energy store and ECU installed in his RB19.

Lando Norris also has a new engine bolted to his MCL60 with no penalties incurred.

First to hit the track was AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries in the AT04, as other drivers followed to start getting up to speed at the fastest street circuit on the F1 calendar, keeping in mind that FP1 will be more about finding the limits rather than doing any tyre work, since the session will not be representative with the race and qualifying held at night.

Carlos Sainz had a close call with an AlphaTauri less than ten minutes into the session, on a track infamous of traffic problems. It will be a repeated scene this weekend.

Also a miscommunication between Charles Leclerc and the pit wall meant the Monegasque has a close moment with Mercedes’ George Russell.

With 20 minutes of FP1 elapsed, Max Verstappen finally took the the track in his RB19 to kick off his weekend at the venue where he won in 2023.

The Dutchman posted the third fastest time from his first attempt, then topping the timing screens on the second, but complained of understeer at Turn 22.

Despite complaining from understeer, Verstappen kept on going faster.

Lewis Hamilton radioed his team complaining about lack of grip while on six-lap-old Soft tyres, asking how much time others are finding, the answer being 0.5s

With 20 minutes remaining, Stroll had a dangerous moment as he came upon two slow cars on the racing line while he was on his flying lap. A close call but thankfully to carbon fiber flying around.

Changes applied on Turn 22 seemed to catch out several drivers who ran wide, Verstappen, Perez, and Pierre Gasly to name a few.

At the end drivers went for a practice start at the start/finish line, while a Virtual Safety Car was applied as a systems check.

How they finished

Max Verstappen posted a 1:29617 to go fastest around Jeddah Corniche Circuit at the end of FP1, with Sergio Perez 0.483s behind in second.

Fernando Alonso was third fastest with a 1:30.315, 0.698s off the pace of Verstappen, while teammate Lance Stroll was a further 0.262s down the road in fourth.

The Mercedes duo, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were up next, fifth and sixth fastest respectively. Russell was a whopping 1.154s off the pace while Hamilton was just 0.016s slower.

Carlos Sainz was the fastest Ferrari at the end of FP1, seventh fastest with a 1:30.924, 1.307s away from Verstappen while Charles Leclerc finished down in 11th. Sandbagging or trouble for the Reds? Take you pick.

Pierre Gasly was eighth fastest for Alpine 0.025s behind Sainz, while Esteban Ocon was down in 12th place, over two tenths slower than his teammate.

A lap time of 1:31.030 put Williams’ Alex Albon ninth fastest while Yuki Tsunoda was 0.080s behind the Thai in tenth.

Notably, both McLarens did not feature in the top ten, with Oscar Piastri 14th fastest while Lando Norris was last in the other MCL60.

Provisional Results