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Special feature

What we learned from Friday F1 practice at the Dutch GP

Max Verstappen and Lando Norris topped a practice session each on Friday in Zandvoort, delighting both groups of orange-clad fans.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Norris nudged ahead of home hero Verstappen to secure FP2's headline time in a boisterous first day of Formula 1 action. But it was Daniel Ricciardo's FP2 crash which stole the headlines and forced him to sit out the rest of the weekend.

With passionate support for Verstappen emerging as early as Friday's practice sessions as his orange-dressed fandom descended upon the Dutch coast en masse, the current championship leader offered early delight having claimed the fastest time in the opening practice session ahead of Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso.

The soft-tyre running in which Norris claimed the fastest FP2 time followed a 12-minute red flag when Australian duo Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo suffered separate crashes at the heavily cambered Turn 3. Ricciardo required a trip to the hospital in order to perform checks on his left hand and wrist having complained of pain over the radio after the crash.

A confirmed broken metacarpal will put Ricciardo out of action for the rest of the weekend, with New Zealander Liam Lawson primed to replace his fellow Antipodean.

There had also been a red flag in the preceding FP1 session, produced by Nico Hulkenberg's trip to the wall at Turn 13 as the Haas driver ended his first session at Zandvoort since his 2008 F3 title-winning season in the gravel.

Here's what else we learned from the opening day of this year’s Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix...

The story of the day

Aside from the heroics of Verstappen and Norris, who presumably delighted all denominations of orange sat within the grandstands, the mistakes from F1's Australian contingent in FP2 were the most high-profile event of the day.

Having started a run on hard tyres after the opening 10 minutes of the session, Piastri set himself up for Turn 3 in his efforts to take the high line around the left-hander. But he came in too hot for the corner, lost the rear, and knocked the barrier with the rear of his car, which turned him into the wall face-on.

A confirmed broken metacarpal will put Ricciardo out of action for the rest of the weekend

A confirmed broken metacarpal will put Ricciardo out of action for the rest of the weekend

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Ricciardo was not aware of the stranded McLaren until it was too late and slipped into the wall, breaking the right-hand suspension on his car. The broken steering arm jerked Ricciardo's left hand up in response, as the Perth native retained his grasp of the steering wheel.

A broken hand after just two races into his F1 comeback will be galling for Ricciardo, who had been at his jovial best in Thursday's press conference.

Drivers had spent much of the early part of FP1 exploring their lines through the quarter-pipe Turn 3, built with varying levels of camber further up the elevation to offer different passing lines, and many began to explore the limit of the high line as they flirted with the white line at the top of the banking. Following that preparation in the opening session, it thus came as some surprise that Piastri approached the corner from a slightly odd angle and tilted his wheel late to assume the high road.

A broken hand after just two races into his F1 comeback will be galling for Ricciardo, who had been at his jovial best in Thursday's press conference

Perhaps caught off-guard by his own line, Piastri locked the rears as he attempted to arrest his speed ahead of the turn-in phase, and was left a passenger by the tail-and-nose contact with the wall.

Verstappen had sat atop the timing boards prior to the red flag on a set of mediums, but the resumption of the session prompted a series of soft-tyre laps from the drivers still in the game. Norris fired his way to the top with a 1m11.330s once the music had largely stopped, which Verstappen could not beat across his two flying laps. His second hot lap brought him to within 0.023s of Norris, but it still fell short of the Briton's benchmark.

Alex Albon impressed at the wheel of his Williams, splitting Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to elbow his way up to third in the order. Although the FW45 has its limitations at the high-downforce technical circuits, pace seemed easily extractable in the hands of both drivers; Logan Sargeant had very briefly sat at the top of the order within the early flurry of hot laps.

FP2 results

 
 
       
Driver Info
 
 
 
   
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Laps Time Interval km/h
1 United Kingdom L. Norris Lando Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes 30 1'11.330   214.950
2 Netherlands M. Verstappen Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull 26 +0.023 0.023 214.880
3 Thailand A. Albon Alex Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes 31 +0.269 0.246 214.142
4 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes 27 +0.308 0.039 214.026
5 Japan Y. Tsunoda Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 AlphaTauri Red Bull 31 +0.390 0.082 213.781
6 France P. Gasly Pierre Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault 30 +0.436 0.046 213.644
7 Mexico S. Perez Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull 29 +0.487 0.051 213.492
8 Canada L. Stroll Lance Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes 31 +0.505 0.018 213.439
9 Finland V. Bottas Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Team KICK 77 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 31 +0.527 0.022 213.373
10 Spain F. Alonso Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes 31 +0.533 0.006 213.355
11 Monaco C. Leclerc Charles Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari 30 +0.585 0.052 213.201
12 United States L. Sargeant Logan Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes 32 +0.604 0.019 213.145
13 France E. Ocon Esteban Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault 30 +0.671 0.067 212.947
14 United Kingdom G. Russell George Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes 28 +0.679 0.008 212.923
15 China Z. Guanyu Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo F1 Team KICK 24 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 30 +0.744 0.065 212.731
16 Spain C. Sainz Carlos Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari 31 +0.763 0.019 212.675
17 Denmark K. Magnussen Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari 28 +1.074 0.311 211.761
18 Germany N. Hulkenberg Nico Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari 31 +1.363 0.289 210.919
19 Australia O. Piastri Oscar Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 6 +1.571 0.208 210.318
20 Australia D. Ricciardo Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 3 AlphaTauri Red Bull 7 +1.766 0.195 209.757

The commencement of the customary end-of-session long runs cemented Norris's position at the top of the pile, and the 18 drivers left in the session explored the full array of tyres throughout the final 25 minutes. The medium rubber appeared the least popular among the teams, as the limits of the hard and soft compounds were explored more conscientiously around the undulating Zandvoort course.

Medium tyre averages

  Team (Driver) Time Laps
1 Mercedes (Hamilton) 1m16.371s 11
2 Red Bull (Perez) 1m16.404s 16
3 Aston Martin (Stroll) 1m16.773s 11
4 Williams (Albon) 1m16.901s 16

Of those medium tyre runs, Lewis Hamilton led the average representative times over a stint length of 11 laps, albeit just 0.033s quicker than Sergio Perez's stint on the yellow-walled compound. Lance Stroll's average time on his stint was a further 0.3s away, just over a tenth clear over Albon's 16-lap stint average. George Russell also completed a stint on mediums, but a single representative timed lap means that his five-lap stretch is not counted.

The McLaren and Mercedes battle set to ensue

Indications are that McLaren and Mercedes are set for another tussle over the remaining steps on the podium

Indications are that McLaren and Mercedes are set for another tussle over the remaining steps on the podium

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Although soft and hard stints were more contested, and thus make for more interesting reading and extrapolation, it comes as scant surprise that Max Verstappen is odds-on favourite to extend his unbeaten run to a ninth successive victory.

The Dutchman does not sit atop the order of soft tyre averages, but Lance Stroll's shorter stint featured only four entirely representative laps across his run on the red-marked compound; Verstappen had a stretch of seven laps on his soft tyres.

Data shown to Motorsport.com confirms that, on fuel-corrected runs, the #1 Red Bull has retained its usual position clear of the remaining runners and riders. Expanding from Perez's run with medium tyres: if one assumes a three-tenth delta between the Red Bull drivers in Verstappen's favour, then this lifts the two-time champion fairly clear of Hamilton's averaged-out stretch on the middle compound.

Perez should by rights have the opportunity to lift himself clear of a potential battle over second, given the strengths of the Red Bull car, but there have been many occasions this season where the Mexican has slipped back into the prevailing dogfight over the latter podium placings. Here, indications are that McLaren and Mercedes are set for another tussle over the remaining steps on the podium, and their comparative soft-tyre runs demonstrated a similar degree of pace.

While Norris scooped the plaudits for setting the fastest FP2 time, it has been suggested that Hamilton's shortfall of three-tenths was largely a result of inadequate tyre preparation, with the tyres outside of the window at the start of the lap.

Soft tyre averages

  Team (Driver) Time Laps
1 Aston Martin (Stroll) 1m16.097s 7
2 Red Bull (Verstappen) 1m16.162s 15
3 McLaren (Norris) 1m16.374s 11
4 Williams (Sargeant) 1m16.426s 8
5 Mercedes (Russell) 1m16.447s 11
6 Alpine (Gasly) 1m16.605s 18
7 Ferrari (Leclerc) 1m16.696s 15
8 Alfa Romeo (Zhou) 1m17.606s 12
9 Haas (Magnussen) 1m17.711s 17

Although Mercedes felt that it had lost out relative to the other teams between FP1 and FP2, it remains confident that it can outpace McLaren through the course of the race. The Woking squad opted for a high-downforce setup at the Belgian Grand Prix that cost it considerable pace, but retaining a larger rear wing for Zandvoort should offer it greater options with regards to tyre management.

Aston Martin should be just behind them, although Alonso acting as an interloper between the McLaren and Mercedes battle cannot be discounted. His pace on the hard tyre was comparable with Norris on the used softs, and correlates with indications that all three tyres will be considered suitable race tyres.

Pirelli estimates that the C1 hard tyre and C2 medium tyre have a delta of between 0.3-0.4s between them, while the C2 to C3 (soft) in pure performance terms holds a 0.8-second difference. Cooler conditions expected on Sunday, should the event remain dry, would fall in the favour of the soft tyre as Pirelli found the C1 to be initially difficult to work with in low-grip conditions.

Although Ferrari appeared to be all at sea having not factored in the top 10 throughout the opening pair of practice sessions, both cars showed hints of improved pace the longer their stints went on. This suggests that Ferrari had opted for higher-fuel runs, and the two cars only conducted their lengthy stints on the used soft compound.

If the Scuderia can conduct fruitful work in the simulator overnight, it would be expected to trend towards battling with Aston Martin over the course of the race. That said, downforce remains a sticking point - per Carlos Sainz: “Unfortunately, we don’t look very competitive yet. I think we saw something similar in Hungary where we go to higher downforce tracks, for some reason we don’t pick up as much downforce maybe as the others when we go to the bigger rear wings."

Downforce remains a sticking point for Ferrari, according to Carlos Sainz

Downforce remains a sticking point for Ferrari, according to Carlos Sainz

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Hard tyre averages

  Team (Driver) Time Laps
1 McLaren (Norris) 1m16.253s 7
2 Aston Martin (Alonso) 1m16.530s 11
3 Alpine (Ocon) 1m16.580s 18
4 Williams (Sargeant) 1m16.717s 12
5 AlphaTauri (Tsunoda) 1m17.068s 18
6 Alfa Romeo (Bottas) 1m17.541s 14
7 Haas (Hulkenberg) 1m18.307s 16

Alpine's pace on the longer runs looked comparable with Ferrari's and, if Maranello's finest cannot make the difference, it could feasibly challenge Sainz and Charles Leclerc in the lower reaches of the points. Williams also surprised, even beyond Albon's time good enough for third in FP3.

Sargeant's hard-tyre stint was clear of the other teams it faces in the battle for seventh in the constructors' championship, and Albon's run on mediums also suggests that it could be an outside bet for points.

The AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda should figure ahead of the Alfa Romeos and the Haases, but the team is set for plenty of work on the other side of the garage as Lawson jumps in at the deep end. Once again, Tsunoda needs to carry the team's fortunes on his back - something he has been well-equipped to do over the course of this season.

Read Also:
Once again, Tsunoda needs to carry AlphaTauri's fortunes on his back

Once again, Tsunoda needs to carry AlphaTauri's fortunes on his back

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

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