Verstappen Silences Noise with Fastest Lap in Saudi Arabian GP Practice

Verstappen Silences Noise with Fastest Lap in Saudi Arabian GP Practice

Three-time Formula One world champion Max Verstappen silenced the off-track noise surrounding his Red Bull team by setting the fastest lap in opening practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Verstappen topped the timesheets with a blistering lap of 1 minute and 29.659 seconds, edging out two-time former champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin by a mere 0.186 seconds. The Dutchman’s Red Bull teammate, Sergio Perez, finished third, followed by Mercedes’ George Russell and the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

The session was marked by intense speculation surrounding the Christian Horner affair, which has cast a shadow over the Red Bull team. However, the focus shifted to the track as cars took to the high-speed Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

Many teams brought upgrades to the race, with Ferrari introducing their 2023 rear wing to capitalize on their straight-line speed. The track conditions were challenging, with air temperatures reaching 27 degrees Celsius and the track surface heating up to 42 degrees Celsius.

Hamilton, who had previously expressed concerns about the Horner controversy and the FIA president’s alleged interference in last year’s championship, was the first driver to set a lap time. He was quickly followed by Leclerc, Perez, and Alonso, with Russell taking the early lead on hard tires.

As the session progressed, Norris switched to soft tires and briefly topped the timesheets. However, Verstappen’s dominance became evident when he joined the soft tire runners. On his first run, he set a blistering pace of 1:30.014, four-tenths clear of the competition.

Russell briefly challenged Verstappen, but the reigning champion responded with an even faster lap of 1:29.659. Leclerc’s attempt to challenge was hampered by an errant plastic bag that lodged in his car’s front suspension.

The session ended with Verstappen firmly in control, setting the stage for an intriguing qualifying session and race weekend.