Verstappen leads the morning as pre-season kicks off

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.

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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.

position driver car time twists gap
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

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