Saudi Arabian GP: Hamilton tops FP1 from Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton edged out title rival Max Verstappen to lead opening practice in Saudi Arabia as the Formula 1 drivers got their first taste of the new Jeddah track.

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Following Porsche Supercup and Formula 2 practice sessions earlier in the day, F1 became the third series to sample the high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit, which many had compared to the Baku and Valencia tracks.

Championship leader Verstappen managed set the early pace in the session for Red Bull, completing his initial runs on the hard compound tyre.

The Dutchman sat almost two seconds clear of the field at points as he quickly found his feet around the track, eventually whittling his best lap on hards down to a 1m30.014s.

Title rival Hamilton was not as swift to get up to speed despite running on softs, finishing six tenths of a second off Verstappen's best lap during the opening runs with teammate Valtteri Bottas sitting third on softs.

As the track continued to evolve and the entire field switched to softs for the second half of the session, laptimes continued to get quicker, with Hamilton and Bottas leapfrogging Verstappen on the timesheets.

Bottas moved five thousandths of a second clear of Verstappen with his second run on soft tyres, only for Hamilton to then find another two tenths of a second, setting a best laptime of 1m29.786s with 15 minutes remaining.

It would be enough to give Hamilton P1 at the end of the session, narrowly keeping the Mercedes driver ahead of Verstappen, who improved in the dying moments of the session to finish second.

Verstappen wound up a quick lap on softs to cross the line in the final minute of running, but fell 0.056 seconds shy of Hamilton at the top.

Verstappen had a late mix-up with Esteban Ocon as the Alpine driver tried to allow him through into Turn 1, only for both cars to run wide and narrowly avoid contract. It was the only near-miss of the session, though, which went by without any major interruption and only a couple of yellow flags.

Bottas ended the session third for Mercedes, and enjoyed his first running at the Jeddah circuit, telling his engineer midway through the session: "F**k this track is cool."

Pierre Gasly ended the session fourth fastest for AlphaTauri, finishing within half a second of Hamilton at the front, while Antonio Giovinazzi was a surprise fifth for Alfa Romeo after a late improvement on soft tyres.

Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished sixth and seventh respectively for Ferrari, with Sainz finding a decent amount of time after making the switch to softs, while Daniel Ricciardo took eighth thanks to a couple of improvements through his second run on softs.

Fernando Alonso took ninth for Alpine after improving on hards during the second half of the session, while Sebastian Vettel closed out practice in 10th place for Aston Martin.

Sergio Perez struggled to match Verstappen's pace in the sister Red Bull RB16B, ending FP1 in 11th place, over a second behind his teammate.

Ocon improved after the mix-up with Verstappen to finish 12th ahead of Lando Norris and Lance Stroll, while Yuki Tsunoda took 15th as none of the quartet matched their respective teammates for pace.

Kimi Raikkonen finished 16th for Alfa Romeo, almost one second down on Giovinazzi in fifth. George Russell led Williams' efforts in 17th ahead of Haas's Mick Schumacher, while their respective teammates, Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin, propped up the timesheets in 19th and 20th place.

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21 1'29.786  
2 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 23 1'29.842 0.056
3 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 24 1'30.009 0.223
4 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 28 1'30.263 0.477
5 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 27 1'30.318 0.532
6 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 26 1'30.564 0.778
7 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 26 1'30.600 0.814
8 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 25 1'30.608 0.822
9 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine 27 1'30.842 1.056
10 Germany Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 25 1'30.886 1.100
11 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 27 1'30.960 1.174
12 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 29 1'31.023 1.237
13 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 23 1'31.029 1.243
14 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 25 1'31.044 1.258
15 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 26 1'31.099 1.313
16 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 26 1'31.296 1.510
17 United Kingdom George Russell Williams 28 1'31.343 1.557
18 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas 24 1'31.525 1.739
19 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 27 1'31.821 2.035
20 Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin Haas 23 1'33.464 3.678
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