In an opening session with a red-flag interruption due to an early pit stop for Aston Martin’s Felipe Dragovic, who is standing in for injured Lance Stroll, world champion Verstappen traded best lap times with Carlos Sainz.
Sainz led in 1m33.253 for the majority of the morning but was beaten by Verstappen’s 1m32.959s 35 minutes before the lunch period.
All teams enjoyed fruitful runs, with only Drugovich losing a significant amount of track time due to what the team called a sensor issue related to the ECU, with the relatively settled technical regulations allowing teams to quickly prepare with the 2023 F1 cars.
To underscore this point, the majority of teams completed the Grand Prix distance on the opening morning, mainly focusing on data collection, aircraft operation, and installation work.
Verstappen, whose lap time was almost a full second faster than the best set on the opening day of Bahrain testing last year, finished the morning nearly three-tenths faster than Sainz’s Ferrari.
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23
Photography: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Pictures
Williams topped the morning lap time table with Alex Albon at 74 laps. The Thai driver also finished third in the time table with a time of 1m 33.671 seconds, ahead of Zhou Guanyu in an Alfa Romeo who finished fourth.
George Russell, who was first on track this morning, finished fifth for Mercedes putting the German manufacturer 1.2 seconds off the pace.
Returning to Formula 1 Nico Hulkenberg also enjoyed a strong morning for his new team Haas with a sixth-place finish, a quarter of a second behind Russell, with Drogovic popping up on a late lap to move up to seventh in times for Aston Martin.
AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda logged 46 laps in the session and is on his way to eighth in the times, ahead of former teammate Pierre Gasly who did 60 laps for Alpine.
Formula 1 rookie Oscar Piastri started his season with 52 laps to go for McLaren as he finished the morning schedule in 10th place.
Nine of the 10 teams will change drivers for the afternoon session, with the exception of Red Bull where world champion Verstappen gets the full opening day in an RB19.
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1’32,959||71|
|2||Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||1’33,253||72||+ 0.294 sec|
|3||Alexander Albon||williams||1’33,671||74||+ 0.712 sec|
|4||Chu Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||1’33,723||67||+ 0.764 sec|
|5||George Russell||Mercedes||1’34,174||69||+ 1.215 seconds|
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas||1’34,424||51||+ 1.465 seconds|
|7||Philip Dragovich||Aston Martin||1’34,564||40||+ 1.605 seconds|
|8||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||1’34,671||46||+ 1.712 seconds|
|9||Pierre Gasly||Alps||1’34,822||60||+ 1.863 seconds|
|10||Oscar Biastri||McLaren||1’34,888||52||+ 1.929 seconds|
“Introvert. Subtly charming web geek. Lifelong entrepreneur. Amateur social media expert. Coffee trailblazer.”