F1 – Leclerc Tops Opening Practice At Imola As Verstappen Slides To Fifth

F1 – Leclerc Tops Opening Practice At Imola As Verstappen Slides To Fifth

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the fastest time of the opening practice session for the 2024 FIA Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, beating Mercedes’ George Russell by a tenth of a second as championship leader Max Verstappen finished fifth at the end of an hour in which he had two wild slides off track.

Russell set the pace in the opening stages of the session with a time of 1:19.704, but he was swiftly beaten by team-mate Lewis Hamilton who went significantly quicker and then by Verstappen who stopped the clock at 1:18.606, who was running Soft tyres.

Russell was getting into the groove and he delivered a time of 1:18.193 to move back to the top as the circuit improved, with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri slotting into P2 behind the Briton.

The session was then halted when Alex Albon hit a kerb which rather bizarrely cause his Williams to shut down. Powerless, he ran down the track from Piratella to Acque Minerali, where he stopped on the inside of the corner.

Russell then returned to the top of the order, but after delivering a lap of 1:17.438 – half a second faster than anything pre-red flags, Leclerc found more pace to take P1 with a final lap of 1:16.990 that featured a purple middle sector.

Behind Russell, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz finished third, 0.130s behind his team-mate, with Sergio Pérez fourth for Red Bull thanks to a lap of 1:17.233, 0.243 off Leclerc.

The Red Bulls went out for their Soft tyre runs later than the rest of the field and it was in the final 15 minutes of the session that Verstappen had his troubles.

On his first attempt Verstappen went purple in the first and third sectors, but a slow middle sector left him fifth behind team-mate Sergio Perez and 0.25s down on Leclerc.

He went quickest again in S1 on his second attempt but in the final sector he lost control at the Variante Alta and had to cut the chicane. And then, on his third attempt he understeered off at high speed through the second part of Acque Minerali and was forced to rattle through the gravel trap.

Behind the championship leader Yuki Tsunoda took P6 for RB, with Hamilton seventh ahead of McLaren’s Miami Grand Prix Lando Norris. Oscar Piastri was ninth in the other McLaren ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

2024 FIA Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.990 30 229.541
2 George Russell Mercedes 1:17.094 0.104 28 229.231
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:17.120 0.130 25 229.154
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1:17.233 0.243 23 228.819
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1:17.240 0.250 21 228.798
6 Yuki Tsunoda RB/Honda RBPT 1:17.388 0.398 29 228.360
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:17.408 0.418 27 228.301
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:17.602 0.612 17 227.731
9 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 1:17.807 0.817 25 227.131
10 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:17.867 0.877 18 226.956
11 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1:17.905 0.915 21 226.845
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:18.072 1.082 22 226.360
13 Daniel Ricciardo RB/Honda RBPT 1:18.142 1.152 26 226.157
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:18.612 1.622 29 224.805
15 Oliver Bearman Haas/Ferrari 1:18.667 1.677 31 224.648
16 Valtteri Bottas Sauber/Ferrari 1:18.827 1.837 23 224.192
17 Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Ferrari 1:19.129 2.139 18 223.336
18 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 1:19.901 2.911 22 221.178
19 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1:20.050 3.060 8 220.767
20 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1:21.059 4.069 20 218.018

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