Sainz tops Australian first practice after two red flags

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Sainz tops Australian first practice after two red flags

Formula 1

Sainz tops Australian first practice after two red flags

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Carlos Sainz topped first practice at the Australian Grand Prix but will be investigated after the session for blocking.

Sainz appeared to impede Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu in the final sector, running him wide out of the penultimate corner in a move that the stewards are taking up before FP2 later today.

The Spaniard went on to beat teammate Charles Leclerc by half a second with a lap of 1m19.806s to lock out the top of the time sheet for the Scuderia in a confidence-inspiring track debut for the team’s new diffuser.

The session wasn’t all smooth running for the Leclerc though. The Monegasque ran through the gravel when he messed up his braking after undertaking a practice start from pit lane in a strange accident, though his car seemed undamaged.

Sergio Perez was third after devoting the first half of his session to aero testing, with Red Bull Racing bringing new front wing endplates, which took him to 0.593s off the pace. But he too had problems, losing some of his bodywork exiting the final corner, necessitating a red flag for the marshals to clear the debris.

Max Verstappen churned through soft tires –likely to be soft enough only for qualifying rather than useful for the race — but could get any closer than 0.820s of the headline time in his Red Bull Racing machine for fourth.

Lando Norris finished an unexpectedly lofty fifth in the opening hour of track time at the revised Albert Park circuit, ending the session 1.072s off the pace to pip Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, whose car was still suffering its porpoising problem .

Local hero Daniel Ricciardo was eighth in the sister McLaren ahead of Fernando Alonso, who recovered from a spin at the reprofiled Turn 11, where he’d earlier run wide, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

George Russell was a vocal 11th after feeling blocked by both Red Bull Racing drivers several times as driers acclimatized to the faster middle sector. He was 1.6s off the pace and 0.4s slower than Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel, entering his first race of the season after a COVID-19 diagnosis counted him out of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, didn’t make it to the end of the hour after an engine failure 15 minutes from the finish. “No more power. Forget it, it’s gone,” he said as smoke billowed from the back of his Aston Martin machine as he exited Turn 10, suggesting the Mercedes power unit might need switching out in the two-hour break before second practice later today.

Pierre Gasly was 14th for AlphaTauri ahead of Zhou. Lance Stroll was 16th in the second Aston and will visit the stewards after the session to resolve an impeding grievance with Kevin Magnussen.

Alex Albon was the quicker Williams, finishing 17th ahead of Magnussen, who arrived late to the track after reporting illness overnight. His session was messy, locking up and running wide at Turn 3 and getting tangled with Stroll, and ended an unrepresentative 3.3s off the pace.

Nicholas Latifi was 19th, while Mick Schumacher propped up the time sheet in 20th.

 

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