until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Alonso pace the hidden gem in mixed-up Brazil F1 practice

by Ben Anderson
2 min read

Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were one-two in the only free practice session for the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix, as neither Red Bull ended up inside the top 15 and the McLarens were slowest of all.

  • Sainz leads Leclerc in Ferrari 1-2
  • Verstappen only 15th
  • McLarens slowest of all

But in truth the entire order was jumbled owing to variable tyre use up and down the grid. The Ferraris were two of just seven cars to use the softest C4 tyre compound in this session, and their laps came right at the end, so it was no surprise that they ended up fastest - with Sainz a tenth up on Leclerc.

Last year’s Interlagos race winner George Russell was third fastest, and the quickest of the eight drivers who used the C3 medium compound. His best lap for Mercedes came midway through the session and was only 0.133s off the outright pace.

Nico Hulkenberg, Alex Albon, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly, Zhou Guanyu, Logan Sargeant and Kevin Magnussen completed an unlikely top 10 - but these were all drivers who used either the soft or medium tyre. Zhou was the only one to use all three compounds and found roughly a second each time moving from hard (C2) to medium (C3) to soft (C4).

Fernando Alonso was 11th fastest overall, just under nine tenths off the pace, but that was actually the starring lap of this session as it came on the hard tyre around the same time as Max Verstappen set his outright best lap on the same compound.

Alonso was 0.178s quicker than the Red Bull, which is very encouraging after Aston Martin’s decision to revert to a previous aero specification for this weekend after the struggles of Mexico and the US GP.

The hard tyre order is the only fair comparison really, as all drivers used that tyre for the first 20-30 minutes of the session (or more).

That order read Alonso, Verstappen, Perez, Gasly, Ocon, Russell, Hamilton, Norris, Leclerc, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Piastri, Stroll, Albon, Bottas, Ricciardo, Sargeant, Tsunoda, Zhou, Magnussen - though it should be noted the Alpines set their best laps a chunk later than the rest, benefitting from track improvement.

The McLarens were 19th and 20th on account of being the slowest of the drivers to set their best times on the C2 tyre, but both Lando Norris (medium) and Oscar Piastri (soft) were on much quicker laps that they aborted after completing two competitive sectors, so in truth, the McLaren is much more competitive than it looks after this session.

Norris is facing a stewards investigation for an unfortunate bump with Nico Hulkenberg while Hulkenberg was on a prep lap.

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