Sainz leads Ferrari charge, Vettel breaks down on return
Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc set the early pace in Melbourne on Friday as they topped the timesheets in free practice; Sebastian Vettel’s return after Covid-19 ended with his Aston Martin breaking down
Last Updated: 08/04/22 5:47am
Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc laid down an early marker for the Australian Grand Prix by topping the time sheet at the end of Friday’s first practice session.
It was Sainz, currently second in the drivers’ championship, who led the way from Bahrain Grand Prix winner Leclerc, with both clocking sub-1min 20sec times around the new-look Albert Park circuit on the soft tyres.
Red Bull pair Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen were just behind them in third and fourth respectively, but Lewis Hamilton was over 1.2 seconds behind Sainz’s best time as Mercedes try to get to grips with the issues which have dogged their W13 car early on in the season.
Sebastian Vettel’s return to action after missing the first two races of 2022 due to Covid-19 test, meanwhile, ended with his Aston Martin breaking down in a cloud of smoke – one of two incidents which caused the session to be briefly red-flagged.
Sainz had endured a delayed start to the practice session in Melbourne after Ferrari changes plans to gather some data on the front-wing flexing which had occurred last time out in Saudi Arabia, but once the Spaniard hit the track both he and Leclerc clocked some eye-catching times on the hard tyres.
The switch to the soft Pirellis for both in the second half of the hour-long session saw them set the pace for the rest of the field to follow, with Perez and Verstappen finishing behind them after running exclusively on the soft tyres during FP1.
Hamilton was the best performing of the Mercedes drivers with the seventh-fastest time of the session, with team-mate George Russell down in 12th.
Elsewhere in the field, there were some encouraging signs for McLaren as Lando Norris finished fifth-fastest, with Daniel Ricciardo – racing at his home Grand Prix – in eighth.
The Alpine pair of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were sixth and ninth respectively, with Alfa Romeo’s Valterri Bottas rounding out the top 10.
Vettel, meanwhile, ended 13th after his breakdown which caused the session to be stopped, with a piece of debris from the back of Perez’s car bringing out the red flags earlier in the day.
Second practice follows later on Friday, with the session live at 7am on Sky Sports F1 with build-up from 6.45pm.
Australian GP Practice One Timesheet
|1) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||1:19.806|
|2) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.571|
|3) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.593|
|4) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.820|
|5) Lando Norris||McLaren||+1.072|
|6) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1.198|
|7) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+1.221|
|8) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+1.349|
|9) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1.423|
|10) Valterri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||+1.441|
|11) Yuki Tsunoda||Alpha Tauri||+1.483|
|12) George Russell||Mercedes||+1.651|
|13) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+1.855|
|14) Pierre Gasly||Alpha Tauri||+1.895|
|15) Guanyu Zhao||Alfa Romeo||+2.015|
|16) Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+2.063|
|17) Alex Albon||Williams||+2.948|
|18) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+3.380|
|19) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+4.118|
|20) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+4.543|