Verstappen leads Alonso in first Saudi Arabia GP practice

Max Verstappen topped a gusty first practice session at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez.

Winds of almost 20mph whipped the seaside Jeddah Corniche Circuit as the first hour of the weekend got underway, but the bluster had little effect on reigning champion and new title leader Verstappen, who effortlessly rocketed to the top spot with a best time of 1m29.659s. It was almost identical to the fastest time he set this time last year, coming in just 0.042s slower.

Alonso put his Aston Martin second in the order, splitting Verstappen from Red Bull Racing teammate Perez. The Spaniard was 0.186s off the pace, with Perez 0.023s further back. The Mexican is running a new gearbox case, cassette and driveline this weekend, the first of five allowed for the season.


First practice in Saudi Arabia, held late in the afternoon, is unrepresentative of qualifying and race, both of which are run after sunset, though teams made the most of the track time in a busy hour of track running.

George Russell was fourth quickest in his Mercedes, less than 0.1s behind Perez. Ferrari teammates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz followed 0.3s and 0.5s off the pace respectively.

Sainz was a late inclusion for practice, having returned to his hotel early on Wednesday with illness. Ferrari confirmed the Spaniard would be taking part in the session only shortly before pit lane opened.

Lando Norris led the way for McLaren in seventh ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes. Hamilton complained early of severe bouncing at his rear axle.

Lance Stroll finished ninth after surviving an early brush with the barriers that cost him a left-front wheel cover but no more serious damage ahead of Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas in 10th and 11th.

Daniel Ricciardo was 12th and 1.2s off the pace for RB, but the Australian was one of four drivers not to use the soft tire in the session. Esteban Ocon followed for Alpine ahead of Williams driver Logan Sargeant and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

Yuki Tsunoda put the second RB 16th, again without soft tires, ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu.

Haas teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen completed the order at the bottom of the time sheet, though neither used the soft compound.

Story originally appeared on Racer