FP1 report: George Russell takes advantage of Max Verstappen’s troubles to lead

Michelle Foster
George Russell practices a pit stop at Mercedes. Bahrain March 2022

New Mercedes driver George Russell practices a pit stop at Mercedes. Bahrain March 2022

George Russell topped the timesheet in Friday’s first practice for the Dutch Grand Prix as, much to the disappointment of the Orange Army, Max Verstappen covered only seven laps before his gearbox ended his running.

Having just gone fastest of all, the Dutchman came to a stop at the side of the track with Red Bull confirming it was a gearbox issue but not one that would incur a penalty later in the weekend.

That left the Ferraris free to play at the front but instead of claiming the 1-2, they were challenged by Mercedes and McLaren.

Russell claimed a surprise P1, Hamilton adding to Mercedes’ joy with the second fastest lap time, while Carlos Sainz was third for Ferrari.

Three minutes into the session we had the first traffic incident of the day as Sebastian Vettel held up local favourite Verstappen, upside a great photo op for those in the grandstands.

A minute later Mick Schumacher had the dubious honour of being the first to eat dirt with a “what the hell” as he went off the track and through the gravel.

While that was going on, Lando Norris went quickest with a 1:15.646, ahead of Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen, everyone but Alonso out on the hard tyres.

Hitting the front after 10 minutes with a 1:14.714, Verstappen ground to a halt with smoke coming from his car. “Something wrong with the gearbox,” he told the team. Before the session, Red Bull had broken a seal on the gearbox to change the main shaft locking insert. Red Bull confirmed it was a gearbox issue.

The red flags came out and it seemed so too did Schumacher, the incident noted by the stewards. No further investigation as two different coloured lights were flashing. The session resumed with 40 minutes on the clock.

Bolting on a set of soft tyres, Norris hit the front with a 1:12.929, Alonso and Schumacher second and third. Carlos Sainz pipped them all, but only by 0.084s ahead of Norris with Ricciardo up to third.

Lewis Hamilton was irking his rivals, Kevin Magnussen reporting to Haas he was “very slow” with Charles Leclerc following suit – the big mirrors Mercedes were running for an FIA test not working.

Having languished down in the bottom half of the timesheet, Leclerc shot up to fourth but was almost three tenths down on Sainz. Another two drivers well outside the top 10 were the Mercedes team-mates, Hamilton P16 and George Russell 17th with 20 minutes to go.

Back on track after a few changes to his car, Russell shot up to third and then went quickest on his next lap with a 1:12.455. Hamilton went second and then annoyed Sainz – “very dangerous” – and Schumacher by getting in their way on his next lap.

Russell finished the session fastest of all by 0.24s ahead of Hamilton, Sainz a further 0.150 down. Norris and Ricciardo were next in line ahead of Leclerc, Perez, Alonso, Ocon and Alex Albon.

Alfa Romeo had what seems to be their traditional Friday troubles, this time hampering Zhou Guanyu who did not set a time until 35 minutes into the hour-long FP1. He finished 16th fastest.


1 George Russell Mercedes 1:12.455 28 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 0.240 27 laps
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari + 0.390 29 laps
4 Lando Norris McLaren + 0.474 32 laps
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren + 0.622 30 laps
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari + 0.672 29 laps
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull + 0.961 29 laps
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine + 1.178 30 laps
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine + 1.508 32 laps
10 Alex Albon Williams + 1.608 28 laps
11 Mick Schumacher Haas + 1.708 28 laps
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin + 1.802 29 laps
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas + 1.950 30 laps
14 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri + 2.019 27 laps
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin + 2.045 27 laps
16 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing + 2.079 17 laps
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri + 2.175 31 laps
18 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing + 2.240 21 laps
19 Max Verstappen Red Bull + 2.259 7 laps
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams + 2.667 32 laps