FP1: Leclerc picks up where he left off with a P1
Charles Leclerc again showed his Ferrari to be the car to beat, topping the FP1 timesheet for the Saudi Arabian GP.
The Bahrain Grand Prix winner clocked a 1:30.772 to beat Max Verstappen, the driver he battled for the lead in the season-opening race, by a tenth.
Valtteri Bottas was third for Alfa Romeo having made a late charge up the order.
But while Leclerc had a good run on Friday, his team-mate Carlos Sainz suffered with notable porpoising as too did the Mercedes drivers.
Fernando Alonso was the first man out, the Spaniard’s Alpine powered by a new PU after the team found a “suspected sealing issue” after the Bahrain Grand Prix. His old engine has been sent back to Viry-Châtillon for investigation.
With the drivers wary of red flags, there were two in the early Formula 2 practice, they were quickly out on track and laying down the laps with Max Verstappen exploring the final corner, which was where he crashed in last year’s qualifying, the wall having been pushed back for this year’s race weekend.
Kevin Magnussen, one of the stars of the Bahrain Grand Prix with his P5 upon his F1 return, ran into trouble early in the session, the Haas driver limping back to the pits with a hydraulic problem. “Box, in slowly, do not shift,” the Dane was told.
10 minutes in Verstappen led the way with a 1:31.9, a second up on Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen was on the hard tyres, Hamilton on the soft Pirellis. Verstappen’s next lap was a 1:31.3 and then a 1:30.8 with Yuki Tsunoda second ahead of Pierre Gasly. Sergio Perez made it an all-Red Bull power unit top four.
With the wind battering the drivers down the main straight and into the final corner, Gasly was the next to run wide as did Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas.
The final turn has been widened…
And the drivers are making use of the extra space 😅#SaudiArabianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/stnh32C6d0
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 25, 2022
17 minutes into the session and the red flag was waved, not for a crash but for an obliterated 50m marker board. It fell onto the track at Turn 1 and was destroyed Lando Norris with other drivers scattering the debris.
George Russell along with the Ferrari drivers, and Magnussen, were the only drivers without times on the board, the trio made to wait in the pits for eight minutes as the marshals cleared the debris. They were the first drivers out when the action resumed – Leclerc going 10th, Sainz 13th and Russell P17.
Leclerc moved up to second place but was a massive 0.6s down on Verstappen while Hamilton improved his time but reported a “lot of bouncing” in his W13, not what Mercedes wanted to hear.
Pushing hard on a new set of soft tyres, Gasly tagged the wall but still managed to improve to second place. Verstappen also had a moment, a big snap of oversteer for the Dutchman coming close to sending him into the barriers. “Did the wind suddenly pick up because it is really difficult?” asked Verstappen.
Leclerc had the amusing moment of the session, the Ferrari driver missing his pit box. It wasn’t because of the dusty pit lane, rather his GPS wasn’t working. His team-mate Sainz was having troubles of his own, his driver cam showing his head bouncing badly as his F1-75 was porpoising badly.
Charles: "Sorry I thought we were later than that.."
— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) March 25, 2022
Heading into the final few minutes, Leclerc went quickest with a 1:30.772 on the soft Pirellis, beating Verstappen by a tenth of a second. Valtteri Bottas made a late charge on the soft tyres to go third ahead of Sainz and Gasly. Hamilton was P9 with Russell down in 15th place.
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.772 16 laps (soft)
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.116s 23 laps (hard)
3 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 0.312s 20 laps (soft)
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.367s 13 laps (soft)
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.545s 27 laps (soft)
6 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 0.733s 25 laps (soft)
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.791s 24 laps (soft)
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.254s 25 laps (soft)
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.592s 18 laps (soft)
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.609s 22 laps (soft)
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.734s 23 laps (soft)
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.810s 21 laps (soft)
13 Lando Norris McLaren 1.822s 22 laps (soft)
14 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 1.836s 24 laps (soft)
15 George Russell Mercedes 2.067s 18 laps (soft)
16 Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin 2.262s 21 laps (soft)
17 Alex Albon Williams 2.315s 23 laps (soft)
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.757s 25 laps (soft)
19 Mick Schumacher Haas 3.657s 21 laps (medium)
20 Kevin Magnussen Haas no time 2 laps