Leclerc leads Russell in first Miami GP practice

Image courtesy of Ferrari

Leclerc leads Russell in first Miami GP practice

Formula 1

Leclerc leads Russell in first Miami GP practice

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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc beat Mercedes man George Russell to top spot in the first timed session at the brand-new Miami International Autodrome for the Miami Grand Prix.

The championship leader emerged at the head of the pack after a flurry of late laps on the soft compound as the track began to cool slightly, having been heated to a scorching 127 degrees F at the start of the hour.

Dropping more than 10 degrees at the end of the session, Leclerc logged a time of 1m31.098s to pip Russell by 0.071s in a promising first test of Mercedes’ car upgrades designed to turn around its shocking start to the season.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were closely matched at around 0.2s off the pace in third and fourth after overcoming cooling issues early in the hour in the ambient 93-degree F conditions.

Leclerc’s session-topping time was early verification of his upgraded Ferrari power unit for the high-speed Miami track, comprising internal combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-H, MGU-K and exhaust system.

Every Ferrari-powered car bar teammate Carlos Sainz — who took his second motor after crashing out of the Australian Grand Prix — likewise took an upgraded engine in FP1 except for Kevin Magnussen, who retained his old exhaust, and Zhou Guanyu, who’s running an old exhaust and MGU-K.

Pierre Gasly likewise adopted a swag of new Honda engine components on his way to fifth and 0.4s off the pace for AlphaTauri, beating Sainz by 0.03s. The Spaniard didn’t get a soft-tire run in thanks to a high-speed spin on the red-walled rubber through Turn 4, destroying the compound and puncturing his right-front tire. His best time was set on heavily worn set of mediums instead.

He wasn’t the only driver to test the limits of the new circuit. Verstappen brushed the wall exiting Turn 16 early before spins for Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda, and Valtteri Bottas crashed out at Turn 7 when he was catapulted backwards into the barriers and triggered a 10-minute red flag.

Alex Albon was an excellent seventh for Williams, three-quarters of a second off the pace and 0.1s ahead of Lewis Hamilton in his updated W13.

Kevin Magnussen was ninth for Haas ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, having narrowly avoided a collision with the Australian late in the session as the McLaren rejoined the track from pit lane having been warned too late of the closing Dane.

Ricciardo was also set for a post-session investigation for impeding Mick Schumacher down the long back straight.

Lando Norris followed in 11th and fractionally further back, the trio all around 1.5s off the pace.

Fernando Alonso was the fastest Alpine, taking 12th, ahead of Zhou Guanyu for Alfa Romeo.

Sebastian Vettel followed ahead of Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll, with the crashed Bottas ending the hour 17th.

Yuki Tsunoda was 18th ahead of Schumacher, while Nicholas Latifi completed the order for Williams.

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