until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Upgraded Ferrari fastest in Imola FP1, Verstappen off twice

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc topped the opening Formula 1 practice session of the 2024 race weekend at Imola, as the dominant Red Bull team looked unusually vulnerable once again.

Key moments

  • Red Bulls out of top three
  • Ferrari, Mercedes out front
  • Hamilton in messy session
  • Tsunoda catches the eye
  • Albon causes red flag

Red Bull was beaten in Miami - with the aid of safety car timing but also a genuine race day pace deficit to McLaren - but the more conventional Imola circuit (paired with a more conventional weekend format) was supposed to restore normality.

And while there's still plenty of time for said normality to be restored, the Red Bulls were hardly protagonists in the hour-long opening practice at the Italian venue.

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were the only drivers doing performance running on the soft tyre in the early stages of the session, but neither ended up in the top three by the time their runs concluded.

And though they had a theoretical track evolution advantage over their rivals late on as they pushed later than the likes of Ferrari and Mercedes on new softs, again neither could breach that top three.

Perez ended up fourth, 0.007 seconds up on Verstappen, who was fastest in the first and third sector but complained of the entry into Acque Minerali being "a disaster" as he had "no f**king grip there". He was also told he was losing time at Tosa and Piratella - and then had a major moment coming into Variante Gresini, cutting the chicane as he caught a major snap and just barely avoided a much bigger crash.

Another attempt in the final minute of the session went begging as Verstappen went into the gravel at Acque Minerali, unable to get his RB20 turned for the right-hander coming out of the section.

Ferrari, which has brought a major upgrade package to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, had a strong start on home soil - its drivers were only sixth and seventh after their opening runs, but had used hards, and were both in the mix for top spot once swapping for the soft rubber.

That top spot ultimately went to Leclerc by a tenth over Mercedes' George Russell, with the troubled W15 looking credible - as Russell had also gone fastest in his earlier run on the medium tyre.

But his team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a remarkably untidy session, first dipping into the gravel at Piratella, then having a massive spin coming out of Acque Minerali, and then having another visit to the gravel late on.

It meant Hamilton ended the session seventh, behind RB's Yuki Tsunoda - a standout of FP1, just four tenths off the pace, at the track where his team (based just a 15km drive away from Imola) carries out its shakedowns and filming days. He was also eye-catchingly fast on the hard tyre in the early going.

Tsunoda, who caught a potential spin after dipping his wheels into the gravel at Rivazza, was ultimately three quarters of a second up on team-mate Daniel Ricciardo - himself a visitor to the gravel in the same section.

McLaren was in the mix early on through Oscar Piastri on mediums, but its two cars ended up eighth and ninth, Norris two tenths up on Piastri after a session in which he'd experienced some car issues.

They weren't as significant as the issues for Williams driver Alex Albon, though, whose first session after signing a new deal with the team ended less than 20 minutes in when his car shut off coming through Acque Minerali, necessitating a five-minute red flag stoppage.

Elsewhere, there were some complaints about bouncing from the likes of Pierre Gasly, his Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu (Sauber) - with Gasly describing it as "the worst we've had this year" and saying he "can't even see where I'm going in a straight".

Haas practice stand-in Oliver Bearman was a credible 15th, shrugging off a crash in Formula 2 practice earlier on Friday.

There was no direct comparison with regular team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, though, as he set no representative low-fuel lap on what was remarkably his first-ever session at Imola.

FP1 times

PosNameCarBest TimeGap Leader
1Charles LeclercFerrari1m16.990s
2George RussellMercedes1m17.094s+0.104s
3Carlos SainzFerrari1m17.120s+0.130s
4Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m17.233s+0.243s
5Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m17.240s+0.250s
6Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1m17.388s+0.398s
7Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m17.408s+0.418s
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m17.602s+0.612s
9Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m17.807s+0.817s
10Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1m17.867s+0.877s
11Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m17.905s+0.915s
12Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m18.072s+1.082s
13Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1m18.142s+1.152s
14Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m18.612s+1.622s
15Oliver BearmanHaas-Ferrari1m18.667s+1.677s
16Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1m18.827s+1.837s
17Guanyu ZhouSauber-Ferrari1m19.129s+2.139s
18Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1m19.901s+2.911s
19Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1m20.050s+3.060s
20Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari1m21.059s+4.069s
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks