Sao Paulo FP1: Sainz leads Leclerc and Russell

Sao Paulo FP1: Sainz leads Leclerc and Russell

Sao Paulo FP1: Sainz leads Leclerc and Russell

Carlos Sainz topped the first and only practice session for the 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix, ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ George Russell.

It must be one of the most pointless practice sessions this season, as the teams and drivers were in tyre conservation mode, the weekend being a Sprint.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez for instance, used only one set of Hards the whole session, not even bothering to use Mediums or Softs.

On the other Hard, Sainz and Leclerc set their times on the Soft tyres in the final minutes of the session, and were faster than Russell who was on Mediums.

But the good news is that we do not have to wait for long before we know the actual pecking order with qualifying a few hours from now.

Worth noting that McLaren both McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri backed off while on some seriously fast laps and boxed… Teasing at its best?

Buildup towards FP1

The final race of the Formula 1 triple-header is upon us this weekend in Sao Paulo, the final Sprint weekend of this season.

Verstappen is yet to lose his stranglehold on the top step of the podium since Singapore that is, having won both grands prix in Austin and Mexico despite not enjoying smooth qualifying sessions.

Mercedes, on the other hand, have been strong since they brought a new floor to their W14 in Austin, especially with Lewis Hamilton and will be looking to enjoy some success in Brazil, the venue of their last win, where Russell took a maiden F1 win in 2022.

Perez had a nightmare home race, crashing out on lap one, and will be looking to make amends, especially if he wants to fend off Hamilton who’s chasing him for second in the F1 Drivers Championship.

He also needs to show Red Bull that he’s their best option as Verstappen’s teammate, given Daniel Ricciardo’s strong result in Mexico, qualifying fourth and finishing a points-scoring seventh in the AlphaTauri.

After the disqualifications of Hamilton and Leclerc in Austin due to the under-floor planks on their cars being excessively worn out as both Mercedes and Ferrari messed up their ride-height setup with only one practice session due to the Sprint – Will we see the same issues this weekend?

As for the tyres, went a bit more on the hard side compared to Mexico, with the C2 (Hard), C3 (Medium), and C4 (Soft) compounds available for the teams.

Sao Paulo FP1 session highlights

The temperatures were somehow high at the start of the session, 43 degrees Celsius for the track, 30 degrees Celsius for the air. The skies were clouded with rain maybe making an appearance in qualifying, but for practice, risk of rain is only 20%.

The only team to bring upgrades to the 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix were Haas who brought a circuit specific front wing to their VF23.

Aston Martin apparently seem to have the old-spec AMR23 in action this weekend. The team doesn’t seem to understand their Austin upgrade yet.

Being the only practice session this weekend made it even more important as drivers did not waste time to get out on track, Verstappen the first car at the exit of the pitlane.

Esteban Ocon soon reported that there was a screw stuck on his tyre, horizontally which explains why there was no puncture yet. Alpine responded that they will monitor and hope it just falls off.

Verstappen soon reports that his seat is “flexing” and not “installed correctly” but was happy to wait until he pitted to sort it out. His engineer confirmed it was not a “reliability issue” and could wait.

All the drivers started FP1 on Hard tyres, Verstappen leading the timing screens early on, almost four tenths faster than Perez in second. Fernando Alonso was third. That was ten minutes into the session.

Sainz had a brief moment at the final corner, the rear of his SF-23 stepping out a bit. Nothing serious though.

15 minutes into the session and this was the top five: Verstappen – Perez – Hamilton – Nico Hulkenberg – Russell.

TV footage showed Verstappen got out of his car once he was back in the pits as his mechanics worked on sorting out his wobbly seat.

Alonso was soon informed by his team that he has a puncture and was asked to returned to the pit for a new set. Not ideal when you are trying to save tyres in a Sprint weekend. Maybe it was the screw that fell off Ocon’s tyre?

On the other hand, replay showed Piastri locking up his front tyres trying to slow down while entering the pits. Did he slow down? Or will he receive a penalty for speeding in the pitlane?

In the meantime, Yuki Tsunoda bolts some Medium tyres on and goes fastest… Soon Russell follows suit and goes fastest. That is halfway through the session.

Kevin Magnussen soon set out on track with Soft tyres for a qualifying run… Remember what he did at Interlagos last year?

As for Ricciardo, things are not looking good, as he was stuck in the garage with floor damage. Not what you need when you have one practice session.

Hulkenberg and Norris ran into each other on track in the final corner, Norris on the inside overtaking the German who was getting ready for a flying lap on Soft tyres.

Hulkenberg returned to the pits for a quick inspection was sent out again, no damage done, but the stewards noted the incident.

With twenty minutes remaining, only both Haas cars used the Soft tyres, Russell, Tsunoda, and Zhou Guanyu used the Mediums. The rest stuck to their Hards.

The final 15 minutes saw more drivers getting out on the Softs, Williams’ Logan Sargeant missing Turn 1, the American asking the team what happened…

He soon reported something wrong with the front left tyre… Replay showed his front tyres were lifting off the track in corners… The team asked him to back off as they found the issue…

It turns out, Sargeant had a problem with the rear suspension.

Verstappen was warned by his engineer that it was “quite gusty”, while McLaren seemed to be teasing with their pace, both Norris and Piastri on really fast laps backing off and pitting.

Hulkenberg reported he lost power on the kerbs at Turn 4, and the replay showed him riding the kerbs quite hard.

A non-representative session overall with some teams opting only for one set of Hard tyres. We have to wait for qualifying to know the true picture, but we need not wait for long.

How they finished

Sainz was fastest with a 1:11.732, 0.108s faster than Leclerc in second and 0.133s faster than Russell – on Mediums – in third.

Hulkenberg was fourth fastest in the Haas on Softs, 0.196s off the pace and 0.116s faster than Alex Albon who was fifth.

Lance Stroll was sixth fastest in the Aston Martin with a 1:12.136 and was 0.048s faster than Pierre Gasly who was seventh in the Alpine.

Zhou was eight fastest in the Alfa Romeo ahead of Sargeant, ninth, and Magnussen in tenth.

Hamilton was 12th. Verstappen was 16th fastest and Perez were 18th.

Session Results