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Sainz spearheads Ferrari one-two as F1 returns to Australia

Sainz spearheads Ferrari one-two as F1 returns to Australia

F1 News

Sainz spearheads Ferrari one-two as F1 returns to Australia

Sainz spearheads Ferrari one-two as F1 returns to Australia

Carlos Sainz firmly thrust himself into the fray for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix by setting the fastest time in first practice at a revamped Albert Park.

The session was dominated for the most part by Sainz's Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc and reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen as they went toe to toe, trading fastest laps, only for the Spaniard to steal their thunder.

Sainz ultimately topped the timesheet with a lap of one minute 19.806secs, finishing half-a-second quicker than Leclerc who was followed by the Red Bulls, with Sergio Perez ahead of Verstappen who eventually finished eight-tenths-of-a-second adrift.

The leading time was almost four seconds quicker compared to the quickest FP1 lap on F1's last visit to the circuit three years ago thanks to a major reprofiling.

That has seen five corners widened, whilst the old turns nine-10 chicane has been removed and turned into a flat-out section that has allowed the addition of a fourth DRS zone, leading to the track being shortened by 28 metres.

The two early title protagonists in Leclerc and Verstappen were the early pacesetters, with the Monégasque setting a 1:21.929s on Pirelli's hard-compound tyre before the Dutch driver shaved 0.304s off that on the soft rubber.

For this track, the red-striped tyre is the softest of the five dry compounds. Unusually, there is a two-step difference to the medium compound instead of it being the next in the range.

Verstappen certainly enjoyed his early blast on the soft compound as he was quicker again with a 1:21.140s 15 minutes into the session before a cool-down lap followed by another push that saw him set a 1:20.909s.

Perez loses a piece of his Red Bull

Soon after the session was red-flagged as Perez had deposited a piece off the rear of his RB18 as he took to the kerb coming out of the final corner.

It was a short-lived stoppage once the part was retrieved by a marshal, and although Verstappen later lowered the benchmark again just beyond the halfway point to a 1:20.857s, he was quickly usurped by a soft-shod Leclerc by just 0.032s.

The two traded blows again soon after, with Verstappen posting a 1:20.606s but right behind him, Leclerc pushed the envelope to 1:20.377s.

But on his first soft-tyre lap, Sainz managed to depose his team-mate by 0.052s, with Leclerc then soon blotting his copybook with a slide into the gravel at the first corner after emerging from the pit lane from where he had made a practice start.

With 15 minutes remaining, Sainz became the first driver to dip below 80 seconds for a lap, posting a 1:19.806s, which proved to be the quickest, followed soon after by a second red flag.

Vettel's Aston Martin sparks second red flag

On this occasion, Sebastian Vettel's return to action after missing the first two races because of coronavirus saw him lose power and grind to a halt, with smoke emerging from the back of his Aston Martin.

Vettel finished 13th quickest overall, 1.855s adrift of Sainz and two-tenths-of-a-second behind Mercedes' George Russell, who struggled on occasion with traffic, notable singling out the Red Bulls on two occasions.

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton was seventh fastest, 1.221s down, with McLaren's Lando Norris and Alpine's Esteban Ocon immediately ahead of him along with the Ferraris and Red Bulls.

In a solid session for McLaren, home hero Daniel Ricciardo was eighth fastest, with Fernando Alonso in his Alpine and Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas completing the top 10, with the Finn 1.441s down.

At the rear, Haas driver Mick Schumacher on his debut at the track was slowest, the German 4.543s off the pace.

Australian Grand Prix first practice times

1. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] 1:19.806s

2. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] 1:20.377

3. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] 1:20.399

4. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] 1:20.626

5. Lando Norris [McLaren] 1:20.878

6. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] 1:21.004

7. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] 1:21.027

8. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] 1:21.155

9. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] 1:21.229

10. Valtteri Bottas [Alfa Romeo] 1:21.247

11. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] 1:21.289

12. George Russell [Mercedes] 1:21.457

13. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] 1:21.661

14. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] 1:21.701

15. Guanyu Zhou [Alfa Romeo] 1:21.821

16. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] 1:21.869

17. Alex Albon [Williams] 1:22.754

18. Kevin Magnussen [Haas] 1:23.186

19. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] 1:23.924

20. Mick Schumacher [Haas] 1:24.349

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