Norris tops red flag-hit FP1 after heavy Albon crash

Lando Norris topped a tricky first practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver set a benchmark of a 1:18.564 to finish just 0.018secs faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who complained of floor damage late on in the session.

George Russell jumped to third late on after a red flag period triggered by a heavy crash for Alex Albon.

Track evolution was high despite the number of support series that have already seen action at Albert Park, starting with the Australian Supercars series on Thursday.

Both Mercedes drivers suffered with ‘long brake pedals’ early in their programmes, though Russell eventually confirmed the issue had subsequently been fixed between runs.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso spent the first run of his weekend testing an upgraded front wing and was therefore fitted with aero rakes. But the Spaniard was later confined to the garage for almost a quarter of the session after skating across the gravel trap on the exit of Turn 10 following a snap of oversteer.

Russell made a mistake at the first part of the same chicane when taking a trip through the grass, though escaping damage, whilst Stake F1 driver Valtteri Bottas did follow Alonso into the gravel, spinning out in between the left and right components of the complex.

With 20 minutes to go, Williams driver Albon crashed heavily at Turns seven and eight to trigger a red flag period – his car bouncing off the exit kerb at Turn six and spearing into the wall and causing extensive damage to both sides of the FW45.

When action got back underway, both Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen made errors on their first laps, leading to concerns over floor damage for both drivers.

The gap between Norris and teammate Oscar Piastri in 10th was just 0.354s, with the field spread within one and a half seconds.

Charles Leclerc was fourth for Ferrari ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, who turned in a promising lap before the red flag stoppage.

Perez made an error on what looked to be an effort good enough to trouble the top three but ran wide at the penultimate corner and finished sixth, ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.

Carlos Sainz returned to the cockpit with the eighth-quickest time after recovering from surgery, with Hamilton and Piastri rounding out the top 10.

Daniel Ricciardo was almost half a second down on his compatriot in 11th, with Albon 12th despite crashing.

Kevin Magnussen was next for Haas ahead of Williams’ Logan Sargeant and the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, with Nico Hulkenberg, Pierre Gasly, Fernando Alonso, Zhou Guanyu and Bottas completing the timesheets.


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