Max Verstappen (Red Bull) already in front! The reigning double world champion set the fastest time on the first day of free practice at the Grand PrixSaudi Arabia, second round of the Formula 1 World Championship, while Ferrari experienced great difficulties. The 25-year-old Dutchman, a hands-down winner of the first Grand Prix of the season in Bahrain two weeks ago, still looks above the competition as he dominated Friday’s two free practice sessions on the street circuit from Jeddah.
At the end of the afternoon, he set the fastest time with almost half a second ahead of his pursuers, before doing it again during the second session, contested at night and representative of the conditions in which the races will take place. qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
But in the evening, however, he saw his main competitors reduce the gap on the time sheet. The Spanish veteran Fernando Alonso (41 years old) indeed set the second time with 208/1000th behind and thus confirmed the excellent performance of his Aston Martin, with which he had climbed on the third step of the podium in Bahrain. His Canadian teammate Lance Stroll finished seventh. When the Mexican Sergio Perez, author of the only pole position of his career here last year, he obtained the third time, 299/1000th from Verstappen, confirming the clear superiority of the Red Bull team at the start of the season.
Ferrari in the hard
Ferrari, on the other hand, had a very difficult day on Friday. Already under pressure after a mediocre performance in Bahrain, the prancing horse brand failed to raise the bar. The Monegasque Charles Leclerc, who had to retire in Bahrain and will be penalized ten places on the starting grid after the replacement of an electronic component at the end of the inaugural Grand Prix, only achieved the ninth time of this first day of racing. trials, just ahead of his Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz.
Relegated to 738 and 989/1000th respectively behind Verstappen’s Red Bull, the Italian team’s single-seaters will have to work hard on Saturday to get closer to the best. “We still have to find performance but the car gives us a good impression, said Sainz. We will focus on improving the results in qualifying tomorrow (Saturday).”
Mercedes had a contrasting day: if George Russell took a good fifth place, Lewis Hamilton could not do better than 11th. “I was in difficulty during the two sessions, admitted the seven-time world champion (…) We will work to improve the balance and make the car easier to drive. It will take time to solve the problems, but everyone is working hard so you have to be patient and give your all on the track.”
Alpine a verve
In addition, Hamilton will now have to do without his physiotherapist Angela Cullen, with whom he has worked for seven years and who announced Friday on Instagram that she was leaving Mercedes. The Briton, who was very close to her, paid tribute to her on the same social network: “Thanks to her, I am a stronger athlete and a better person.” The nice surprise of the day came from Alpine, which placed its two cars in the Top 6. Esteban Ocon, revengeful after his retirement in Bahrain following several errors, set the fourth fastest time, while Pierre Gasly s is also shown solid with the sixth time.
“The car looks good so far and I think we can get more out of it going into qualifying,” Ocon said. “The car feels good,” said Gasly, who made a superb comeback in Bahrain by finishing ninth after starting last on the grid.
Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg also performed well with an unexpected eighth place at the wheel of his Haas, while novices Nyck de Vries (AlphaTauri), Logan Sargeant (Williams) and Oscar Piastri (McLaren) finished bottom of the timesheet, just ahead of Valterri Bottas (Alfa Romeo).
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