Charles Leclerc wanted to make a mark in the first free practice session of the Saudi Arabian GP: the Monegasque was the fastest on soft tires, capturing an excellent 1’30 “772, a time that is one second centered on the last year in FP1. It is true that the track has been slightly revised to ensure a better view for the drivers, but it is equally true that the new ground effect F1 cars have confirmed to be very fast on high-speed tracks like Jeddah, despite being a city route.
The session, held in bright sunlight, saw confirmation from Ferrari, after the drivers had given up on laps in the first half hour. The F1-75 confirmed to be competitive even if a very different track from that of the winning debut, but it must be said that behind the red of the Monegasque there is Max Verstappen’s Honda HRC engine.
Max dictated the pace with the hard tires: the Dutchman placed a 1’30 “888 with the white tires which speaks volumes about the shape of the RB18 which also impressed in the mini long run, but did not impress when he put on the tires And so the 116 thousandths that separate Leclerc from Verstappen are not indicative, because Ferrari was able to pull out a scratch with the soft, which Max failed, but we are only in the first session with a track that is still very dirty and full of sand.
The surprise, confirming the excellence of the Ferrari 066/7 engine, came from Valtteri Bottas with Alfa Romeo. The Finn is third with an encouraging 1’31 “084: Valtteri, who at this point does not regret the Mercedes, has managed to put his nose in front of Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari by 45 thousandths. The Spaniard, fourth, has not yet seemed to comfortable with the redhead.
Behind Sainz are three Honda-powered single-seaters with Pierre Gasly, fifth in the AlphaTauri, ahead of teammate Yuki Tsunoda. The Japanese of the Faenza team managed to get behind Sergio Perez with the second Red Bull.
Esteban Ocon with the Alpine equipped with the new bellies climbed to eighth place with the A522: the Frenchman confirmed himself faster than Fernando Alonso, tenth, but four tenths behind the transalpine. Lewis Hamilton slipped between Enstone’s two cars, ninth, a second and a half behind Leclerc’s Ferrari.
The gap testifies to the difficulties of the W13 which suffers significantly from porpoising on a track of over 250 km / h on average. The seven-time world champion defended himself as he could, while George Russell appeared to be in great difficulty, who had started the round with a more charged wing and then converted to the one closest to Lewis’s.
McLaren’s ordeal continues with Daniel Ricciardo 11th and Lando Norris 13th. The Englishman deserved a moment of notoriety for hitting a warning sign that disintegrated, forcing the race direction of Wittick to display the red flag for eight minutes.
Lance Stroll with Aston Martin slipped between the two MCL36s, while confirmed Nico Hulkenberg with the second “verdona” is 16th: Sebastian Vettel must be happy to have stayed at home with COVID.
Guanyu Zhou took no chances with the second Alfa Romeo on a treacherous track. The two Williams are in trouble with Alexander Albon clearly ahead of Nicholas Latifi. The two FW44s only preceded the Haas: Kevin Magnussen was left without time for an annoying hydraulic leak. On the VF-22 they had to replace a radiator, just as it had happened in Bahrain and the Dane did not finish a timed lap, but was back on track before the checkered flag. Bad Mick Schumacher who has not yet taken the step with the ground effect monopostona.
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