Sergio Perez set the pace by a narrow margin during Friday’s first practice session for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, as the third and final Formula One weekend of the season began.
Given Sprint’s format, FP1 has taken on more importance than the regular Friday program, with teams only having 60 minutes to grasp and tune their cars before qualifying at the Interlagos Tech Circuit.
After drivers spent the first stages collecting data on hard and medium tires – Verstappen led with a hard time of 1m and 13.575 seconds – the first sets of soft tires appeared close to the center mark, leading to a series of improvements.
Perez launched the transition to the red-marked rubber, working his way up to 1m 11.853sec, as Verstappen initially entered in P2, 0.008sec, with the two-time world champion reporting over the radio that his RB18 “doesn’t turn around”.
Red Bull Racing
+ 0.004 seconds
Red Bull Racing
+ 0.008 seconds
Supreme Authority for Financial Control and Accountability
+ 0.186 seconds
+ 0.187 seconds
In the final minutes of the session, Leclerc edged struggling Verstappen by 0.004sec to split the Red Bulls, after Ferrari made a late switch to soft tyres – Carlos Sainz finished fourth, just under a tenth behind.
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were both inside Sainz’s mustache in P5 and P6 respectively, though Hamilton said it “looks like the rear is just moving” and shuts off on soft tyre start.
Sebastian Vettel put his Aston Martin seventh as his F1 retirement approached, with Haas driver Mick Schumacher, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Alfa Tauri’s Pierre Gasly making the top ten.
Alpine pair Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon made a low start to the weekend in P11 and P13 respectively – neither Alpine nor rival McLaren ran soft tires in the session – Williams’ Alex Albon smashed, with another Lance Stroll 14 Aston Martin. After reporting technical issues.
After being sick on Thursday, Lando Norris managed to break out on track to lead the McLaren team in P15, followed by the remaining Haas and Williams machines Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi.
Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo), Yuki Tsunoda (Alfa Tauri) and Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) completed the course, which was covered in 1.5 seconds around the 4.309km course.
In an otherwise quiet session, the slow-moving Norris at the exit of Senna Esses infuriated Sainz, thwarting Stroll Leclerc in another traffic-related accident on the run to Juncao.
After FP1, attention immediately turns to qualifying in Sao Paulo, which is scheduled to begin at 1600 local time. visit Racing Center for more information.
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