Russell leads Mercedes sweep of opening Miami GP practice

·3 min read

George Russell topped a slippery first practice session at the Miami Grand Prix ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton.

The Mercedes duo left their soft-tire runs until the final two minutes of the session, when the circuit was at its cleanest, with Russell setting the pace at 1m30.125s to pip Hamilton by 0.212s.

It was a strong return for Russell, who spent most of the first 30 minutes having his steering rack changed after rejecting an experimental new part following just two opening laps in the car.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, the 2022 Miami winner, was 0.324s off the pace, while Max Verstappen, who set his fastest time shortly after the halfway mark of the hour-long session, was fourth and 0.424s adrift in his Red Bull.

More Formula 1!

F1 technical updates: 2023 Miami Grand Prix

Perez backing himself to stay in F1's title fight

Miami facing its difficult second act

New surface, but a similarly slippery story. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

The times were almost a second quicker than they were during first practice at last year’s event in part thanks to a freshly laid track surface. The surface has been repaved following complaints about grip by drivers, but early running has shown the new tarmac to be very greasy offline, with several drivers losing control of their cars when they ventured even marginally wide.

The low-grip conditions bit Nico Hulkenberg particularly hard through Turn 3, where the German’s Haas machine slipped from his control, spun backwards and smacked into the outside barrier on exit.

Hulkenberg had moments earlier set the fastest time of the session as one of the first to sample the soft compound, and that lap was quick enough for ninth at the end of the hour despite the shunt.

Alex Albon, Nyck de Vries and Pierre Gasly also had big spins and slides, among other drivers who saved smaller snaps, but all managed to bring their cars back in one piece.

Carlos Sainz moved ahead of the broken-down Haas driver into fifth, but the Ferrari driver was almost 0.6s off the pace. Gasly followed for Alpine, the Frenchman just bettering Aston Martin teammates Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll

Hulkenberg’s lap was impressive for how early it was set, on a track that was still dusty and greasy. Esteban Ocon completed the top 10 in the second Alpine.

Sergio Perez was a distant 11th, some 1.4s off the pace and a second down on teammate Verstappen, though his sole hot lap also came very early in the session.

Oscar Piastri was 12th for McLaren ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Valtteri Bottas, Albon and Lando Norris.

Zhou Guanyu was 2s off the pace in 17th, just ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and local favorite Logan Sargeant for Williams.

De Vries was last with only 10 laps on the hard tire, having returned to his garage after his early spin and not returned to the track.

Presented by

CLICK HERE to get a 7-day free trial to F1 TV Pro and stream the Miami GP live, your way. Offer available for a limited time and to new F1 TV Pro subscriptions in select regions.

Story originally appeared on Racer