How Norris edged messy and red-flagged Australian GP FP1

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Alex Albon suffered a heavy crash in a surprisingly dramatic and tight opening Australian Grand Prix Formula 1 practice session that featured several near-misses and was topped by Lando Norris.

Albon caused a red flag with around 20 minutes of the session remaining when, just as he set a personal best first sector, he ran over the exit kerb at the fast Turn 6 right-hander that was reprofiled a couple of years ago.

The kerb strike jolted the Williams, unsettled the car quickly but violently and spat it into the wall on the right-hand side.

It then slid into the wall on the left-hand side less heavily but still with reasonable force, scattering debris across the track.

Albon emerged from the car OK having apologised to the team over the radio. The session was interrupted for just over 10 minutes by the clean-up operation.

OTHERS GET LUCKY

That this session featured a red flag was no surprise given the spate of near-misses throughout.

The only shock was that Albon managed to crash somewhere else, as pretty much every other moment of drama came through the high-speed Esses that start the final sector.

Oscar Piastri was the first driver to have their reflexes tested at Turns 9 and 10, catching a brief wobble in his McLaren. That was just a precursor for increasingly more dramatic moments.

Fernando Alonso needed a new floor on his Aston Martin after a big snap on the exit sent him skating across the gravel.

Next to abort through there was George Russell, who had set his fastest times in sectors one and two and was challenging for top spot but had a much more wild variant of Piastri’s entry snap and had to take to the run-off area cutting the second part of the corner.

Valtteri Bottas didn’t get that choice. Seconds before Albon’s crash, Bottas lost the rear of his Sauber between 9 and 10, spun 360 degrees, and rejoined harmlessly enough across the gravel on the exit, the only damage done to his ragged set of softs. 

ONE TENTH COVERS EIGHT CARS

Following the Albon red flag, FP1 resumed with just under 10 minutes remaining, at which point Norris was fastest with barely a tenth of a second covering the top six.

Norris didn’t go quicker, but remained on top as the mistakes persisted.

Lewis Hamilton was straight over the grass and gravel at Turn 1 on a flying lap on used softs, picking up a bit of understeer on entry that turned into a quick slide at the apex.

Next to breathe a sigh of relief, back at Turn 10, was Max Verstappen. The world champion had a small bit of instability through Turn 9 but stuck with it then understeered slightly through the right hander, running across the exit kerb and dipping a wheel into grass and even slightly the gravel.

His Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez’s efforts to improve late on were thwarted by a big lock-up that sent him deep into the penultimate corner.

Such was the disruptive and scruffy nature of this session that when Verstappen jumped to second-quickest right at the end, just 0.018s slower than Norris, he did so without setting a single personal best across the three sectors.

Russell did similar, albeit aided by an improved final sector, to slip into third for Mercedes 0.033s behind Norris. Charles Leclerc, Yuki Tsunoda (quick throughout in the RB) and Perez were all within a tenth of Norris in sixth, while just the other side of that were Lance Stroll (0.103s) and the returning Carlos Sainz (0.122s) in his first session since his appendectomy.

Hamilton gathered a lap together cleanly enough to end up 0.207s off the pace in ninth with Piastri completing the top 10. 

Practice 1 Results

Pos Name Car Best Time Gap Leader
1 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1m18.564s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1m18.582s +0.018s
3 George Russell Mercedes 1m18.597s +0.033s
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m18.599s +0.035s
5 Yuki Tsunoda RB-Honda RBPT 1m18.621s +0.057s
6 Sergio Pérez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1m18.642s +0.078s
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m18.667s +0.103s
8 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1m18.686s +0.122s
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.771s +0.207s
10 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1m18.918s +0.354s
11 Daniel Ricciardo RB-Honda RBPT 1m19.274s +0.710s
12 Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 1m19.443s +0.879s
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m19.489s +0.925s
14 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1m19.519s +0.955s
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1m19.561s +0.997s
16 Nico Hülkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1m19.604s +1.040s
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1m19.622s +1.058s
18 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m19.716s +1.152s
19 Guanyu Zhou Sauber-Ferrari 1m19.989s +1.425s
20 Valtteri Bottas Sauber-Ferrari 1m20.014s +1.450s



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