Saudi Arabian GP FP1: Verstappen fastest from Alonso and Perez

Saudi Arabian GP FP1: Verstappen fastest from Alonso and Perez

Saudi Arabian GP FP1: Verstappen fastest from Alonso and Perez

Max Verstappen topped the first practice session for the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, ahead of Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin and teammate Sergio Perez.

It seems the reigning Formula 1 Champions and their star driver opted to show their hand early on around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, unless they forgot the sandbags in Bahrain.

And while there was no surprise with Verstappen going fastest, the whole results of the session shouldn’t be taken seriously as the track grip was still at its lowest, not to mention the conditions are not the same as those of qualifying and the race, both running at night.

Buildup towards FP1

The second round of the 2024 F1 season is upon us, and after the Bahrain Grand Prix, the sport heads to Jeddah for the fourth Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

And it will be a totally different affair from Bahrain, despite being a night race as well, but for this event, top speed will be of major importance – something Alpine must be dreading – while the track surface will be different from the abrasive tarmac of Sakhir. So a lower downforce setup that that of last week will be used.

But like Bahrain, the whole weekend was shifted one day ahead, starting on Thursday with the grand prix on Saturday as Ramadan starts on Sunday

The off-track drama won’t be lacking though, as the Christian Horner saga carries on, but with Jos Verstappen off rallying somewhere, maybe Red Bull can enjoy a low key race weekend.

However F1 in general will have more heated topics to deal with, as FIA President, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, is under investigation for alleged fixing of the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP, and for allegedly trying to block the approval of the Las Vegas track.

But again, we can only hope that the racing would be very good and divert the attention from the gossip to the racing.

Tyres-wise, Pirelli brought the C2 (Hard), C3 (Medium) and C4 (Soft) compounds for this race.

FP1 session highlights

The session started in clear but gusty conditions, temperatures higher than those of Bahrain, track temperature at 41 degrees centigrade, while ambient temperature were 27 degrees.

With the track being green and given that qualifying and the race will be at night, the first practice session will be unrepresentative and just a chance for the teams to check the systems on their cars with some initial setup work and the drivers get up to speed with the track.

So as much as we would like to find out the pecking order on this track – well Red Bull will be the fastest – we would need some more time to see how the teams stack up behind the bulls

It was not long before track action started, tyre choice being a mix of Hard and Medium compounds, Valtteri Bottas leading the pack with Zhou Guanyu behind him, Lewis Hamilton behind the Sauber pair.

In the Alpine, Esteban Ocon was not happy early on, he reported: “I’ve got bouncing in the first sector, it’s not the best.”

Less than 15 minutes into the session, Lance Stroll thought he was already in qualifying and went very close with the wall at Turn 22, actually touching the wheel of the front left tyre flying off.

The Canadian returned to the pit for repairs as TV footage showed the mechanics struggling to remove that front left tyre.

Around halfway into the session, all the cars returned back to the pits for setup changes, that is except for the RBs of Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda who kept on pounding around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Alonso soon joins followed by Bottas.

Carlos Sainz, who was unwell on Wednesday, was sat in his car in the pits while the mechanics went about doing some major setup changes on the car with FIA delegates even having a look at the rear of the SF-24.

Lando Norris was the first driver to get on the Soft tyres in the session and went to the top of timing screens, where previously, George Russell was placed. Norris was 0.130s faster on the Softs than Russell on the Hards.

More drivers followed out on the Red-walled tyres.

Verstappen soon goes over four tenths faster than Norris, only for Russell to go even faster, by 0.003s and go back to the top, his middle sector unbeaten up to this moment – 25 minutes to go.

Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen in the Haas, bucked the trend and went on the Medium tyres for their second runs as all the other drivers were in the Softs.

With twenty minutes remaining, Verstappen reports some “engine noise” and “weird engine behavior” under throttle, but despite that improves his time and retakes the top position from Russell by over three tenths.

With 15 minutes, Charles Leclerc described the track like “Mario Kart” with plastic bags all over the place. Replat showed the remains of a plastic bag wrapped around his front suspension.

Pierre Gasly was given a black and white flag for not following the race director’s instructions with regards to track limits. We’re not even in qualifying or the race.

With three minutes remaining, Logan Sargeant had quite a close call with Sainz, no contact thankfully, but some colorful language from the American over the team radio.

How they finished

Verstappen clocked a 1:29.659 to go fastest of all, 0.186s faster than Alonso in second and 0.209s faster than Perez in third.

Verstappen’s was over one second slower than the pole time posted by his teammate in the 2023 qualifying in Jeddah.

Russell who showed some strong pace at the start of the session was fourth fastest in the end, 0.280s off the pace and less than a tenth ahead of Leclerc, fifth fastest in the Ferrari.

Sainz was sixth fastest in the other Ferrari with a 1:30.164 and 0.067s faster than Norris, seventh fastest in the McLaren.

Hamilton was eighth fastest in the #44 Mercedes, 0.577s off the pace and over three tenths faster than Stroll, ninth in the Aston Martin.

Alex Albon was in decent shape and posted the tenth fastest time of the session.

Saudi Arabian GP FP1 Classification