Saudi Arabian GP: Worry for Red Bull rivals as Max Verstappen tops first ’24 practice in FP1

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen focused RB20

Max Verstappen focused RB20

Max Verstappen and Red Bull shrugged off their practice woes from Bahrain to get their set-up spot-on in Saudi Arabia as the reigning World Champion set the pace ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez.

But while F1 fans could note another P1 for Verstappen, fourth-placed George Russell was only 0.28s down.

Max Verstappen tops first practice session of 2024

On a windy and hot afternoon, the track temperature 42°C, the drivers and teams geared up for a trying afternoon’s opening practice at the Jeddah Corniche circuit.

The 6.1km anti-clockwise circuit, of which 73 percent of the lap is at full throttle, with its seven true corners hard on the drivers and even harder on the cars and brakes.

Lewis Hamilton set the opening time, a 1:32.5, for the Mercedes driver but it was Lando Norris who was P1 after all 20 drivers had completed a lap with a 1:31.8.

Focusing on the hard and medium Pirelli tyres, George Russell went quickest with a 1:30.8 ahead of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

Interestingly, in the wake of Russell and Verstappen’s complaints that F1 needs to raise the car’s ride heights, it was noted that it was Verstappen complaining in FP1 – Red Bull having been the one team that didn’t have the issue in years one and two of the ground-effect aerodynamic cars.

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Slapping on soft tyres for the second half of the session, Lando Norris laid down a 1:30.4 but that was pipped by Verstappen’s 1:30-flat. And then came Russell, pipping Verstappen by 0.003s, prompting a smile from his team boss Toto Wolff.

The reigning World Champion upped his pace to a 1:29.6 to pull three-tenths clear of Russell. At a time when Ferrari’s debris woes were in full force, Charles Leclerc picked up a bag but still went third. Fernando Alonso then jumped up into second place.

As the drivers switched to race run, Verstappen’s 1:29.6 stood as the time to beat ahead of Alonso, Perez, Russell, and Leclerc in a traffic-jammed final 15 minutes.

Saudi Arabian GP 2024: FP1 classification

1 Max VERSTAPPEN 1:29.659
2 Fernando ALONSO +0.186
3 Sergio PEREZ +0.209
4 George RUSSELL +0.280
5 Charles LECLERC +0.371
6 Carlos SAINZ +0.505
7 Lando NORRIS +0.572
8 Lewis HAMILTON +0.577
9 Lance STROLL +0.921
10 Alexander ALBON +1.088
11 Valtteri BOTTAS +1.124
12 Daniel RICCIARDO +1.258
13 Esteban OCON +1.286
14 Logan SARGEANT +1.307
15 Oscar PIASTRI +1.318
16 Yuki TSUNODA +1.377
17 Pierre GASLY +1.387
18 Guanyu ZHOU +1.472
19 Nico HULKENBERG +1.752
20 Kevin MAGNUSSEN +1.918

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