Verstappen pips Alonso as F1 testing gets underway

Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images

Verstappen pips Alonso as F1 testing gets underway

Formula 1

Verstappen pips Alonso as F1 testing gets underway


Defending world champion Max Verstappen set the pace on the opening day of Formula 1 pre-season testing, although he was nearly usurped by Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen was the only driver to complete the full day’s running, and it was an extremely productive one as it meant the Dutchman was first out on track after the lunch break because Red Bull didn’t need to prepare the car for another driver. He completed 157 laps on what appeared to be an extremely smooth day of running, although the final margin of his advantage over the field was less than 0.03s.

That’s because Alonso ensured it was a more optimistic ending to the day for Aston Martin than the opening session, when Felipe Drugovich – standing in for the injured Lance Stroll – stopped on track with an electrical issue on his out lap. That cost the team an hour’s running in the early part of the day and Alonso similarly lost track time due to floor damage early in the afternoon, but late laps saw him finish just 0.029s off Verstappen’s time.

It could have been an even better start to life at Aston Martin for Alonso, who was in with a chance of going fastest when improving on his previous best, but the Spaniard ran wide out of the final corner and dropped 0.2s.

Carlos Sainz made it both Spanish drivers in the top three, as his morning time of 1m33.253s kept him at the sharp end, with teammate Charles Leclerc joining him in fourth, just 0.014s behind. The Ferrari pair combined for 136 laps to give the team plenty of data to work with ahead of the final two days.

The same can’t be said of McLaren, despite Lando Norris ending up fifth overall. Norris took over from Oscar Piastri at lunchtime and added only 40 laps to his rookie team-mate’s 52, leaving McLaren as the only team not to break the 100-lap barrier on Thursday. Where the team can be encouraged, though, is that it was on the same tire compound as the top four.

Lewis Hamilton’s best lap of 1m33.508 was enough for sixth place and came during a busy afternoon session that saw him complete 83 laps, giving Mercedes a total of 152 when added to George Russell’s mileage.

Of more importance for Mercedes was the apparent absence of porpoising during the opening day. Instead, the Ferrari appearing to be the car with the most obvious movement, but all drivers struggled over a severe bump on the pit straight.

Russell was ninth behind Zhou Guanyu, the pair sandwiched between the Williams drivers. Alex Albon used the softer Pirelli compounds during his morning running to go seventh overall with a 1m33.671, while rookie Logan Sargeant had a few off track moments late in the day but posted a competitive 1m34.324 on the C3 tire.

Just 0.1s behind Sargeant was Nico Hulkenberg on his return for Haas, the German opening the test for Guenther Steiner’s team and ending up 0.6s clear of Kevin Magnussen, who was slowest of all 19 drivers to set a time.

That gap shows how competitive it was from 11th position down on the first day, with Valtteri Bottas, Nyck de Vries and Drugovich all covered by 0.006s. While the Alpine drivers were 16th and 17th – 0.049s apart – Pierre Gasly was encouraged by the initial signs from his new car and felt there was a lot more pace to exploit.

Presented by