Max rounds up FP1 in Melbourne in fourth

Published on 15 March 2019 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen came in fourth fastest at the first free practice in the run-up to the Australian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton was the fastest in his Mercedes on the 5,303 meter long Albert Park Street Circuit. Sebastian Vettel followed in his Ferrari in second, followed by his team mate Charles Leclerc who finished third.

Everyone was looking forward to this for a long time, but after the sudden passing of Charlie Whiting, the FIA-Race Director, this Formula 1-campaign started off on a down. Kimi Raikkonen, driving for the Alfa Romeo-team this season, is the first driver to make it to the track when the lights turn green for the first time in 2019. In his wake, Ferrari-running Sebastian Vettel, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Robert Kubica follow suit. All the drivers, except for Romain Grosjean, do an installation lap and return back in droves to their respective teams.

Valtteri Bottas is, after well over fifteen minutes in the session, the first one out on track for a longer run. With that, the Finn is also one of the first to get a timed lap. After 25 minutes, Max also heads out for his first run of the season. His first timed lap, on the soft compound tyre, puts him second, between the Mercedes of Bottas and Lewis Hamilton. In the following laps, the Dutchman slowly closes the gap to Bottas, who is on the mediums, to almost three tenths.

After a short visit to the pits, we see Max on the same set of tyres make a dash for the fastest lap time. Despite going purple in two sectors he is a few hundredths astray on the time Bottas set. Moments later we see Hamilton move up to P2 as Max returns to the pits, because the first set of tyres needs to be handed over. It would appear that Renault has some issues with Nico Hülkenberg’s car. Halfway the session and the German still doesn’t have any timed lap to his name.

Lando Norris is the first driver to head back out again after a short break. Before Max makes it to the track, both Mercedes have bettered their lap times on the soft compound. Verstappen improves also and once again plants his RB15 between both Mercedes on the second spot. Meanwhile, Hülkenberg is still next to his car, which indicates that it might take a while before he is able to get out on track.

By now, Ferrari have reported themselves in the upper regions of the board. Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc have positioned themselves behind of Hamilton, and ahead of Max, in second and third. Moments later, Alexander Albon triggers a red flag. The rookie puts his Toro Rosso in the wall after which Race Control brings out the red flag. Albon is eventually able to get back to the pits, without a front wing and unaided. After this, the track is cleared again.

Nico Hülkenberg’s car issues have been solved and the German is with his first timed lap P16, ahead of team mate Daniel Ricciardo. Not much later he even moves up to P10, trailing the top by 1,4 second. Bottas takes a small off course excursion after he gets one wheel onto the grass in the penultimate corner. The gap between the frontrunners is very small, the difference between P1 and P5 is a mere two tenths.

With still five minutes remaining, Max heads back out again but sees no possibilities in bettering his lap time once again. With this, his first free practice in 2019 is done and over.

Australian GP contest: win a RBR Driver Cap 2019 and 1:8 2016 Verstappen helmet!

Results first free practice Australia:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:23.599 26
2Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:23.637+0.038s18
3Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:23.673+0.074s18
4Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda1:23.792+0.193s22
5Valtteri BottasBOTMercedes1:23.866+0.267s30
6Kimi RäikkönenRAIAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:24.816+1.217s18
7Daniil KvyatKVYScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:24.832+1.233s30
8Pierre GaslyGASRed Bull Racing Honda1:24.932+1.333s23
9Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:24.934+1.335s24
10Nico HulkenbergHULRenault1:25.015+1.416s11
11Antonio GiovinazziGIOAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:25.166+1.567s23
12Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:25.224+1.625s18
13Alexander AlbonALBScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:25.230+1.631s21
14Carlos SainzSAIMcLaren Renault1:25.285+1.686s19
15Lance StrollSTRRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:25.288+1.689s26
16Sergio PerezPERRacing Point BWT Mercedes1:25.498+1.899s21
17Daniel RicciardoRICRenault1:25.634+2.035s16
18Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Renault1:25.966+2.367s31
19Robert KubicaKUBWilliams Mercedes1:27.914+4.315s25
20George RussellRUSWilliams Mercedes1:28.740+5.141s25