Max Verstappen opened up the Australian Grand Prix weekend at the top of the timesheets, the Red Bull driver setting the fastest lap in FP1, a session twice disrupted by the red flag, once for a “GPS issue” and then when the Williams of Logan Sargeant ground to a halt in the closing minutes of the first practice.
Verstappen who set his quickest time on the soft tyre edged the also soft shod Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton who popped up into the runner-up spot in the closing seconds of the session.
Half a second adrift, Sergio Perez completed the top-three.
Australian GP Free Practice 1 – Results
There were mixed predictions on the weather front ahead of the Melbourne weekend, but the sun shined bright among 18° C air temperatures when FP1 kicked off.
And at the outset, 20 drivers were keen to head out on track when the light went green at the end of the pitlane.
Verstappen – sporting an updated front wing on his RB19 – lost no time getting down to business, the Dutchman setting the fastest lap on the soft tyre.
However, the two-time world champion looked anything but settled and he was overhauled in short order by Perez even as the Mexican was shod with the medium tyre.
But Verstappen then dialed in the performance of his softs to recoup the lead, with both Red Bull cars half a second clear of the field.
While everyone was well behaved in the early part of the sessions, Kevin Magnussen – twice, Nico Hulkenberg, Yuki Tsunoda and even Perez suffered off-track excursions which were inconsequential for all, save for the AlphaTauri charger whose car’s floor was damaged.
However, soon after the session had hit its halfway mark, race control displayed the red flag, invoking “GPS issues”, a technical glitch that was a first as far as one can remember.
“There is a GPS issue currently and the red flag is necessary for safety reasons with teams not being able to monitor car position and closing speed,” stated race control.
After an extended pause, the session resumed with less than 15 minutes to go, but after minutes of running and a spin by Verstappen at Turn 4, proceedings were halted once again when Logan Sargeant parked his Williams, the engine of his FW45 just shutting off.
The issue brought a premature end to FP1, but not without Hamilton slotting himself into P2 just behind Verstappen and ahead of Perez.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso clocked in fourth, the Spaniard outpacing once again both Ferrari drivers. Lando Norris’ efforts for McLaren carried him into the top ten, the Briton edging AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in P8.
Rounding off the first half of the field were Mercedes’ George Russell and Lance Stroll.
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