Australian GP FP1: Norris tops messy session

Australian GP FP1: Norris tops messy session

Australian GP FP1: Norris tops messy session

Lando Norris topped the first practice session for the 2024 Australian Grand Prix, 60 minutes that saw mistakes and carnage down under.

It was a messy session in Melbourne as the 20 Formula 1 drivers got to grips with the Albert Park track, many losing their cars at several corners on the track, while Alex Albon was the unlucky one to crash bringing out the only Red Flag of the session.

While Albon was fine, his Williams mechanics will have a big job to do to fix his car that was banged from both sides.

In the end Norris was the fastest out there, with Max Verstappen second fastest with noting separating the pair. George Russell was third fastest in the Mercedes, ahead of Charles Leclerc, fourth in the Ferrari.

The recovering Carlos Sainz was eighth in the other Ferrari while local hero Oscar Piastri was tenth. The other hero Daniel Ricciardo was down in 11th, his teammate Yuki Tsunoda up in fifth.

However, the times were pretty close out their, the top seven separated by just one tenth.

Buildup towards FP1

F1 heads down under for the 2024 Australian Grand Prix after a two-week break following the season opening double header of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

And while we are heading for another weekend of Red Bull and Verstappen dominance, the drama in the sport has not been lacking but off-track that is.

Naturally, the Christian Horner saga lives on as we go racing in Melbourne, and the FIA ethics committee exonerated President Mohammed Ben Sulayem from accusations of trying to fix the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, by pushing to reverse Alonso’s penalty, as well as interfering to block the approval of the Las Vegas track.

But Susie Wolff decided to take matters into her own hand and filed a lawsuit against the FIA in France based on the very short investigation the governing body opened regarding an “F1 team principal and a Formula 1 One Management employee” back in December of 2023, for conflict of interest suspicion, a move Horner should be happy with, hoping it takes the spotlight off him for a bit.

Some good new, Sainz will be back in his Ferrari this weekend, after missing the Saudi race due to surgery to sort out his appendix, but insists he would not push himself too hard claiming he would call in sick if he doesn’t feel 100% capable, with Oliver Bearman on standby just in case.

Ricciardo and Piastri will be excited to driver their home race, more for the latter though who hails from Melbourne, but while the McLaren youngster may have a better chance of delivering a decent show for the fans, the Honey Badger with his current form and driving his VCARB will probably disappoint.

So another chance and a different track for us to confirm that Red Bull are the fastest yet again, and that Ferrari are chasing hard, but how will McLaren, Mercedes, and Aston Martin stack up behind them?

Tyre-wise, Pirelli have brought the C3 (Hard), C4 (Medium), and C5 (Soft) compounds this weekend.

Australian GP FP1 Session Highlights

The session started is clear conditions, the track temperatures at 31 degrees Celsius with ambient temperatures at 18 degrees.

The drivers did not waste any time and soon Russell was on the radio reporting vibrations in the steering rack and a long brake pedal. Lewis Hamilton soon reported a similar issue with his brake pedal.

Other than Sergio Perez and Leclerc who were on the Soft tyres, all drivers that went out on track had the Medium bolted on their cars. Noteworthy that the Mediums and the Hards will be the tyres of choice for the race this weekend.

Almost ten minutes into the session, Piastri’s McLaren went a bit out of shape in Turn 9 while on a flyer, but he keeps it together.

Over ten minutes into the session, Verstappen started his first timed lap, on Softs, and goes fifth fastest with Perez topping the times and Leclerc on second, but soon goes fastest.

However, the reigning F1 Champion soon puts the hammer down and goes fastest from Leclerc by over four tenths.

So 15 minutes into the session the order was: Verstappen – Leclerc – Perez – Piastri – Tsunoda – Norris – Lance Stroll – Kevin Magnussen – Esteban Ocon – Ricciardo.

And it was only by then that Fernando Alonso started his first timed lap, as replay showed the Aston Martin mechanics doing some work on the #14 Green car removing the aero racks.

With 20 minutes gone, Sainz had already racked up ten laps, and was eighth fastest, as Russell reports his brakes are better and sets out on a timed lap and goes 11th fastest.

Alonso had a big moment in Turn 10 and ended up with a rough ride in the gravel trap.

So it seems the brake performance is an issue in FP1, as Albon in the Williams soon reports braking problems saying his car feels going left and right when he hits the pedal.

Halfway into the session, Norris asks his team to check the floor as he has bottomed out pretty bad, while Nico Hulkenberg reporting a similar situation to the Haas pitwall earlier.

More Soft tyres were used, Norris in particular who goes fastest , one tenth ahead of Verstappen, while Stroll also uses the Softs to go third fastest.

Alonso in the meantime was last on the timing screens and stuck in the garage with a floor change underway for his AMR24 after his earlier off-track excursion.

Russell, with 20 minutes remaining, and while on a fast lap, had a scary snap in the Turn 9/10 chicane, but held it with some impressive car control.

Valtteri Bottas soon after went for a 360 spin in his Sauber at the same place. However Albon was not so lucky as his crashed at the exit of Turn 8 after taking too much kerb, bringing out the Red Flag. The driver was ok, thankfully.

The Williams mechanics have a huge job to fix that car before FP2.

The session was resumed with ten minutes remaining on the clock and Ocon led the pack out on track and soon Hamilton had a moment of his own at Turn 1, the rear end of the W15 stepping out, the seven-time F1 champ having a run through the run-off area.

Verstappen also had a moment through the Turn 9/10 complex with Perez also having a scruffy lap losing his RB20 at the penultimate lap.

Sainz reported a pitlane incident, as a Haas tapped the rear of his Ferrari as the cars lined up waiting their turn to exit the track.

Hamilton soon had another moments over the kerbs at Turn 10, reporting over the radio that he might have damaged the floor. Verstappen reported the same worry to his engineer.

The session was concluded with practice starts.

How they finished

Norris posted a 1:18.564 to go fastest, only 0.018s faster than Verstappen in second, who was in turn only 0.015s faster than Russell in third.

Leclerc was fourth, 0.002s behind Russell and 0.022s ahead of Tsunoda who was fifth fastest in the RB and 0.021s ahead of Perez, sixth fastest in the #11 RB20.

Stroll was seventh fastest in the Aston Martin, 0.103s off the pace. His teammate, Alonso, had a messy session and ended up down in 18th.

Sainz was eighth in the second Ferrari, 0.122s slower than the benchmark time and 0.085s ahead of Hamilton, ninth in the Mercedes.

Piastri was tenth fastest, 0.354s down on his teammate’s time.

FP1 Classification