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Mercedes offer up Miami hope as Leclerc shines

Mercedes offer up Miami hope as Leclerc shines

F1 News

Mercedes offer up Miami hope as Leclerc shines

Mercedes offer up Miami hope as Leclerc shines

F1 championship leader Charles Leclerc struck the first blow ahead of this weekend's Miami Grand Prix at the end of a first practice session in which Mercedes suggested it could again be a threat.

Leclerc finished with the leading time of one minute 31.098secs as F1's weekend in south Florida finally got underway following plenty of hype over the inaugural event.

The Ferrari driver finished just 0.071secs ahead of Mercedes' George Russell around the 5.41-kilometre, 19-turn circuit as the reigning constructors' champions showed a glimmer of form with its W13 sporting a number of updates.

They notably included a new rear wing designed to reduce rear downforce and drag, and the effect was noticeable as there appeared to be considerably less porpoising than has been evident in the opening four races.

Although team-mate Lewis Hamilton was only eighth quickest, 0.858s behind Leclerc, Mercedes will likely be pleased it has found a solution to its issues, at least for now on this track given its characteristics.

For Hamilton, his build-up to practice had been overshadowed by the jewellery furore that has played out of late, with the 37-year-old taking to the track in adherence of the rules despite insisting beforehand he would defy motorsport's governing body.

On Thursday, the FIA made it mandatory for all teams to submit in their scrutineering reports that a driver was compliant with the newly-enforced rules regarding a ban on the wearing of jewellery, in particular, body piercings.

In the drivers' press conference on Friday morning ahead of practice, Hamilton made clear that he felt such a rule was "very, very silly" and that he would not be complying given he wore piercings he was unable to remove.

With the threat of a sanction hanging over him, Hamilton headed into FP1 having removed as many of his piercings as was physically possible but still wearing a nose ring that could not be removed, along with a second body piercing.

Hamilton has been given a two-race exemption to comply so will race in Miami and the next event in Barcelona but must be in conformity by the Monaco Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, winner last time out in Imola to close the gap on Leclerc at the top of the drivers' standings to 27 points, was third fastest, 0.179s adrift.

In between Verstappen and Hamilton were Red Bull's Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly in his Alpha Tauri, Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and, remarkably, Williams' Alex Albon.

The contrast in form this season between Albon and team-mate Nicholas Latifi was underlined by the fact the Canadian propped up the timesheet, 4.539s behind Leclerc and almost 3.8s behind Albon.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10, with the latter 1.5s down, with the Australian followed closely by team-mate Lando Norris.

Miami Grand Prix first practice standings

1. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] 1:31.098s

2. George Russell [Mercedes] +0.071

3. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] +0.179

4. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] +0.203

5. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] +0.400

6. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +0.430

7. Alex Albon [Williams] +0.756

8. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] +0.858

9. Kevin Magnussen [Haas] +1.461

10. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.494

11. Lando Norris [McLaren] +1.517

12. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +1.786

13. Zhou Guanyu [Alfa Romeo] +1.922

14. Sebastian Vettel [Aston Martin] +1.926

15. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +2.319

16. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +2.478

17. Valtteri Bottas [Alfa Romeo] +2.675

18. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +2.945

19. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +3.847

20. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] +4.539

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