There was no stomach bug holding back Max Verstappen in Friday’s opening practice in Jeddah where the Red Bull charger led teammate Sergio Perez by a comfortable margin in the session.
The Red Bull duo thus picked up where it left off in Bahrain with its RB19 once again the class of the field.
Fernando Alonso put to rest the doubters that thought that Aston Martin’s remarkable performance at Sakhir was overrated. The Spaniard was third fastest in FP1 but just a couple of tenths ahead of teammate Lance Stroll.
- Saudi Arabian GP Free Practice 1 – Results
Verstappen appeared in the paddock on Friday morning looking fit and well after a stomach bug delayed the Dutchman’s arrival in Saudi Arabia.
As a reminder, like in Bahrain, FP2, qualifying and Sunday’s race will take place in cooler conditions at night, which mitigated somewhat the relevancy of FP1.
Just ahead of the session, it came to light that both Ferrari drivers was given new power units as a precautionary measure from the Scuderia.
A healthy first wave of drivers took to the track when the lights went green, including F1’s trio of rookies, with AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries an absolute beginner in Jeddah having never seen the place until this week, while Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant have both raced at Jeddah.
The entire field, minus Verstappen and Stroll, was up and running after just five minutes, with Perez laying down the first marker.
But Bahrain podium finisher Fernando Alonso was immediately up to speed and briefly went top before Perez recouped the lead, the two chargers trading places at the top during the first half of the session.
Verstappen sprung into action after 20 minutes, but at the top of the hour, the soft-shod Red Bull driver overhauled Alonso up front by half a second, with Perez 0.777 behind.
The two-time world champion pressed on to extend his edge at the front by a couple of hundredths, where he settled, with Perez slotting into second to make it another Red Bull 1-2 at the outset.
Alonso upheld Aston’s claim of having the second fastest car, with Stroll following suit in P4 just a few tenths from his teammate.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a trouble-free session to clock in fifth and sixth, although the team’s troubled W14 looked unstable at times around Jeddah’s fast-flowing layout.
The pair landed just ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz who was over 1.3s adrift from the session’s pace setter as the Scuderia appeared to play catch-up.
In P8, Pierre Gasly was Alpine’s fastest representative, just ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Charles Leclerc led the second half of the field with a disappointing performance that edged Esteban Ocon and de Vries.
Further down the order there was another shocker with Lando Norris closing out the field for seemingly no specific reason, while Oscar Piastri concluded the session P14.
At first glance, looking at the top times, one would have been forgiven for thinking that F1 had not left Bahrain!
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