Perez opens 2023 F1 season fastest

Sergio Perez was fastest in opening practice in Bahrain

Sergio Perez was fastest in opening practice in Bahrain

Sergio Perez has kicked off the 2023 Formula 1 season with the fastest time in opening practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver headed Fernando Alonso at the end of the opening hour of track action, with Max Verstappen third best.

It was a comparatively uneventful session, though ignition problems cost Lance Stroll important track time and a rear wing issue saw Charles Leclerc spend time in the garage.

The new season brought with it a busy opening, with all but four cars venturing forth as the session commenced.

Those remaining in the sheds were Verstappen, Stroll, Lewis Hamilton, and George Russell.

Williams pair Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant completed installation laps before returning to the garage, as did Nico Hulkenberg for Haas.

Perez was the first to set a time, logging a 1:35.069s to open proceedings.

It lasted at the top for only a matter of seconds as Fernando Alonso banked a time just 0.021s faster for Aston Martin.

Verstappen headed out on a set of medium tyres, beginning his first timed lap with seven minutes having elapsed in the session.

The Dutchman was immediately on the pace, less than a tenth off Alonso’s best to the first split on his first timed lap.

However, he lost time through the middle third of the lap, dropping 0.3s, to record a 1:35.429s to slot in third best.

Inside the opening 10 minutes, Piastri had a slide at Turn 7, the Australian turning into it as he ran across the painted run-off without issue.

He sat fifth fastest after 10 minutes with a 1:36.274s.

On his second run, Perez improved to 1:34.343 to move ahead of Alonso by 0.524s, and more than a second clear of Verstappen in the other Red Bull.

The Mexican set the time on the medium tyre, which was the compound of choice in the 27-degree mid-afternoon sun.

Sargeant was the odd man out as the American circulated on the hard compound Pirellis in the early stages.

After 15 minutes, four drivers remained without a time, namely Zhou Guanyu, Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen, and Stroll.

The latter had only been confirmed as taking part in the weekend on Thursday, managing just two laps in the first 20 minutes.

Stroll had also missed pre-season testing after breaking both wrists in the lead-up to the three days of running.

At Ferrari, the rear wing on Charles Leclerc’s car was seen oscillating wildly.

What first looked like a wobble caused by clouting an apex curb proved to be more significant, with both cars pulled into the lane.

On track, Lewis Hamilton posted the third-best time of the session with a 1:35.014s to make for four different teams at the top of the timesheet as Kevin Magnussen sat fourth for Haas.

Halfway through the 60-minute session, Stroll remained in the garage, having completed just two laps without setting a time.

An ignition issue was interrupting the Canadian’s session while team-mate Alonso wracked up the miles.

Stroll emerged with 25 minutes to run, mustering a 1:37.519s on his first timed lap.

At the other end of the timing sheets, Verstappen had improved to 1:33.375s.

With 21 minutes remaining Carlos Sainz had a spin at Turn 9, skating into the run-off but keeping the car out of the fence.

The Spaniard toured back to the pits, his tyres heavily flat spotted.

As the rear end stepped out, the floor was impacting the track surface at the right rear before appearing to rebound at the moment the back end broke loose.

Inside the final 20 minutes of running, attention turned to the soft compound tyre for much of the field.

Alonso improved inside the final 10 minutes on a set of soft tyres, moving to within 0.438s of Perez who remained fastest.

With three minutes remaining, Leclerc emerged back on track.

He ended proceedings with the fifth-best time, behind Lando Norris in fourth.

Stroll, Kevin Magnussen, Zhou, Valtteri Bottas, and Hamilton completed the top 10.

Free Practice 2 follows at 18:00 local time.

Results: Bahrain Grand Prix, Free Practice 1

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 20 1:32.758
2 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 21 1:33.196 0:00.438
3 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 20 1:33.375 0:00.617
4 4 Lando Norris McLaren 21 1:34.165 0:01.407
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 16 1:34.257 0:01.499
6 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 16 1:34.298 0:01.540
7 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 19 1:34.402 0:01.644
8 24 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Sauber 18 1:34.575 0:01.817
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Sauber 19 1:34.689 0:01.931
10 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 13 1:34.917 0:02.159
11 63 George Russell Mercedes 19 1:34.966 0:02.208
12 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren 23 1:34.997 0:02.239
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 19 1:35.015 0:02.257
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 21 1:35.043 0:02.285
15 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 19 1:35.105 0:02.347
16 21 Nyck de Vries Scuderia AlphaTauri 25 1:35.402 0:02.644
17 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 21 1:35.455 0:02.697
18 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 23 1:35.749 0:02.991
19 23 Alex Albon Williams 14 1:36.018 0:03.260
20 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 20 1:36.072 0:03.314

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