Australian GP: Red flag in FP1 as Alex Albon creates ‘muchos debris’ and Norris goes P1

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris in the McLaren car

Lando Norris in the McLaren.

Lando Norris set the pace in FP1 at the Australian Grand Prix, the McLaren driver up on Max Verstappen and George Russell with the top nine separated by a mere 0.209s.

The session was red-flagged when Alex Albon crashed heavily having clipped the kerb at Turn 6 and then hitting the inside wall at Turn 7, damaging the right side of his Williams before bouncing across the track into the wall on the left and sliding along that, spewing debris.

Australian Grand Prix FP1: Lando Norris takes first honours

Fernando Alonso with his AMR24 adorned with a host of aero rakes led out the field for the start of FP1 with the track temperature up to 32’C and barely a breath of wind to be felt.

He ran through the pits for several laps, leaving it to Lewis Hamilton to lay down the opening gambit with a 1:20.8 having declared a day earlier that this year’s W15 is “definitely not the evil sister” to last year’s Mercedes.

His team-mate George Russell, though, wasn’t having as much fun, and told Mercedes: “A bit of vibration through the steering rack.” He added: “The pedal is a bit long.”

With the drivers lapping on a mix of medium and soft Pirellis – the latter being the softest of the soft in the C5 – Lance Stroll went P1, then Yuki Tsunoda and then Stroll again with the P1 time down to a 1:19.8 after the first 10 minutes of running.

Nico Hulkenberg seemed to be concerned that maybe his VF-24 was running too close to the ground, telling the team: “We’re smoking the plank on the back straight there.” recommends

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Charles Leclerc, running the soft tyres, went quickest after going purple in the first two sectors with home favourite Oscar Piastri following him up the timesheet along with Lando Norris.

Max Verstappen’s opening gambit put him P5 with his team-mate Sergio Perez having just gone quickest in a session in which it looked as if the softs needed a lap or two to come into their best. And then Verstappen went quickest on his second hot lap, a 1:18.670.

Pierre Gasly was back in the pits with extensive work being carried out on his Alpine A524 while 20 minutes into the session Alex Albon had yet to set a lap time as he, like Alonso, was doing a bit of aero testing.

Alonso had a moment through the Turn 10 gravel, saying he “lost the car a little bit”. That necessitated a bit of time in the pits as Aston Martin changed his floor.

13 laps on the medium tyres and Tsunoda stuck his RB into the tussle for a top spot, mixing it up with the soft tyre runners to sit 0.390s down on Verstappen’s P1 time.

Meanwhile, the Mercedes of Hamilton was notably bouncing with Norris telling McLaren to check his floor as his McL36 was also making contact with the ground.

Norris then went P1 with a 1:18.5 on his first flying lap on a set of C5s.

A huge snap of oversteer had Russell declaring “fine” to Mercedes when asked if the car was alright, Valtteri Bottas added his name to those eating gravel as he spun, and then out came the red flags with Alex Albon crashing at Turn 6/7/8.

Albon lost the rear exiting Turn 6, hit the wall on the inside at Turn 7 with the front right, then slid across to the left side and hit that too.

“I’m okay,” he told Williams, adding a “sorry”, but the right side of his Williams most definitely was not okay.

As for Norris’ assessment of the crash, “muchos debris” he told McLaren.

The session was resumed with nine minutes on the clock and Hamilton off the track into Turn 1, Carlos Sainz who had a quiet start to the season putting his foot flat, and Verstappen going a bit wide at Turn 10 and backing off having been up on the P1 time. “I bottomed out quite hard there,” reported the triple World Champion.

The session ended with Norris P1 ahead of Verstappen by 0.018s and Russell third. The top nine were separated by two tenths.


1 Lando NORRIS 1:18.564
2 Max VERSTAPPEN +0.018
3 George RUSSELL +0.033
4 Charles LECLERC +0.035
5 Yuki TSUNODA +0.057
6 Sergio PEREZ +0.078
7 Lance STROLL +0.103
8 Carlos SAINZ +0.122
9 Lewis HAMILTON +0.207
10 Oscar PIASTRI +0.354
11 Daniel RICCIARDO +0.710
12 Alexander ALBON +0.879
13 Kevin MAGNUSSEN +0.925
14 Logan SARGEANT +0.955
15 Esteban OCON +0.997
16 Nico HULKENBERG +1.040
17 Pierre GASLY +1.058
18 Fernando ALONSO +1.152
19 Guanyu ZHOU +1.425
20 Valtteri BOTTAS +1.450

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