Spanish GP: Norris leads Verstappen in opening practice


McLaren’s Lando Norris topped Friday’s opening practice for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, the Briton edging Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by just 0.024s.

The clean session saw local hero Carlos Sainz clock in third for Ferrari, just ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell.

However, neither the Scuderia nor the Brackley squad indulged in runs on the soft tyre, contrary to their front running rivals.


Formula 1’s return to Europe has traditionally seen teams implement a wave of upgrades, and this is proving true this weekend for Red Bull, Ferrari and RB while the remainder of the field has introduced either minor tweaks or no changes at all.

So the opening laps of FP1 were an opportunity for those concerned to gauge the modifications before gradually fine-tuning set-ups later in the day.

Fresh out of his Friday morning F2 session, Ollie Bearman was in action with Haas, in place of Nico Hulkenberg, as part of the Briton’s FP2 schedule this season with the US outfit for which the 19-year-old is expected to race in 2024.

Installation laps were the norm in the opening minutes of practice while splashes of flow-vis and aero rakes were also visible.

Russell put the first relevant time on the board, the Mercedes charger running on hard rubber like most of his rivals. But Verstappen was quick to overhaul the Briton, lowering the benchmark to 1m15.424s.

As teams worked diligently through their run plans, there was little to report as the session reached its half-way mark. But a switch to the medium compound in the Ferrari camp saw Sainz leap to the top.

However, Verstappen’s now soft-shod RB20 once again took command, the Dutchman hammering in a 1m14.252s that put him 0.320s clear of Russell.

Perez followed suit but could only manage third, the Mexican positioning himself ahead of Russell and Hamilton. The former may have landed himself in hot water with the stewards for running very slowly on the racing line, right in the path of the fast-approaching RB of Yuki Tsunoda.

A temporary red flag was displayed with 20 minutes left on the clock to allow marshals to collect a large piece of debris sitting on the track on the exit of Turn 9, suspectedly from Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

While soft tyres were now widespread – except over at Ferrari and Mercedes – it was Norris’ hard-shod McLaren that moved to the front, despite a near-miss with Bearman between the final two corners.

As programmes unfolded there were little changes at the front, but there were worries in the Alpine camp with Pierre Gasly claiming over the radio, as he returned to the pits, that he could no longer drive his A524.

The session thus concluded with Norris leading the pack from Verstappen, home favourite Sainz, Russell and Perez who rounded out the top five.

Oscar Piastri followed thereafter, the Aussie preceding Hamilton who, like Russell, steered clear of the softs in the session. Esteban Ocon, Alonso and Alex Albon completed the top ten.

Leclerc lined up P11, as the Monegasque focused on set-up work. Valtteri Bottas in 12th position was the fastest of the Sauer drivers, as was Daniel Ricciardo over at RB who ended first practice P15.

Bearman completed a healthy 29 laps, the Haas rookie landing in the penultimate spot in standings, two places and 0.221s behind teammate Kevin Magnussen.

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