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Formula 1

How Norris edged messy and red-flagged Australian GP FP1

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Alex Albon suffered a heavy crash in a surprisingly dramatic and tight opening Australian Grand Prix Formula 1 practice session that featured several near-misses and was topped by Lando Norris.

Albon caused a red flag with around 20 minutes of the session remaining when, just as he set a personal best first sector, he ran over the exit kerb at the fast Turn 6 right-hander that was reprofiled a couple of years ago.

The kerb strike jolted the Williams, unsettled the car quickly but violently and spat it into the wall on the right-hand side.

It then slid into the wall on the left-hand side less heavily but still with reasonable force, scattering debris across the track.

Albon emerged from the car OK having apologised to the team over the radio. Williams later confirmed that Albon will not take part in FP2 as a result of the crash.

The session was interrupted for just over 10 minutes by the clean-up operation.

OTHERS GET LUCKY

That this session featured a red flag was no surprise given the spate of near-misses throughout.

The only shock was that Albon managed to crash somewhere else, as pretty much every other moment of drama came through the high-speed Esses that start the final sector.

Oscar Piastri was the first driver to have their reflexes tested at Turns 9 and 10, catching a brief wobble in his McLaren. That was just a precursor for increasingly more dramatic moments.

Fernando Alonso needed a new floor on his Aston Martin after a big snap on the exit sent him skating across the gravel.

Next to abort through there was George Russell, who had set his fastest times in sectors one and two and was challenging for top spot but had a much more wild variant of Piastri’s entry snap and had to take to the run-off area cutting the second part of the corner.

Valtteri Bottas didn’t get that choice. Seconds before Albon’s crash, Bottas lost the rear of his Sauber between 9 and 10, spun 360 degrees, and rejoined harmlessly enough across the gravel on the exit, the only damage done to his ragged set of softs. 

ONE TENTH COVERS EIGHT CARS

Following the Albon red flag, FP1 resumed with just under 10 minutes remaining, at which point Norris was fastest with barely a tenth of a second covering the top six.

Norris didn’t go quicker, but remained on top as the mistakes persisted.

Lewis Hamilton was straight over the grass and gravel at Turn 1 on a flying lap on used softs, picking up a bit of understeer on entry that turned into a quick slide at the apex.

Next to breathe a sigh of relief, back at Turn 10, was Max Verstappen. The world champion had a small bit of instability through Turn 9 but stuck with it then understeered slightly through the right hander, running across the exit kerb and dipping a wheel into grass and even slightly the gravel.

His Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez’s efforts to improve late on were thwarted by a big lock-up that sent him deep into the penultimate corner.

Such was the disruptive and scruffy nature of this session that when Verstappen jumped to second-quickest right at the end, just 0.018s slower than Norris, he did so without setting a single personal best across the three sectors.

Russell did similar, albeit aided by an improved final sector, to slip into third for Mercedes 0.033s behind Norris. Charles Leclerc, Yuki Tsunoda (quick throughout in the RB) and Perez were all within a tenth of Norris in sixth, while just the other side of that were Lance Stroll (0.103s) and the returning Carlos Sainz (0.122s) in his first session since his appendectomy.

Hamilton gathered a lap together cleanly enough to end up 0.207s off the pace in ninth with Piastri completing the top 10. 

Practice 1 Results

PosNameCarBest TimeGap Leader
1Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m18.564s
2Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m18.582s+0.018s
3George RussellMercedes1m18.597s+0.033s
4Charles LeclercFerrari1m18.599s+0.035s
5Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1m18.621s+0.057s
6Sergio PĂ©rezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m18.642s+0.078s
7Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m18.667s+0.103s
8Carlos SainzFerrari1m18.686s+0.122s
9Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m18.771s+0.207s
10Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m18.918s+0.354s
11Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1m19.274s+0.710s
12Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1m19.443s+0.879s
13Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1m19.489s+0.925s
14Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1m19.519s+0.955s
15Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m19.561s+0.997s
16Nico HĂĽlkenbergHaas-Ferrari1m19.604s+1.040s
17Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m19.622s+1.058s
18Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1m19.716s+1.152s
19Guanyu ZhouSauber-Ferrari1m19.989s+1.425s
20Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1m20.014s+1.450s
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