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Norris tops Practice 1 during a red flag interrupted session

Phil Branagan
Friday, 22 March 2024

McLaren and Lando Norris have started his weekend in fine fashion by topping the timesheets in a shortened opening Practice session in the FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024 at Albert Park.

The British driver set the fastest time of the session of 1:18.564s before the session was red-flagged after 40 minutes.

That was caused by a crash by Alex Albon, whose Williams hit the wall at Turn 8, after the Thai had the 10th-fastest time of the session. The subsequent cleanup cost the teams just over 11 minutes of track time.


The lost time derailed some of the efforts by drivers to set their best time late in the session, which was held in near-perfect conditions, with 19-degree temperatures and only a light breeze.

Max Verstappen was second fastest in the session, but the triple World Champion had to wait until the final lap to close to within 0.018sec of Norris.

Both Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez ran wide on laps late in the session, and neither looked comfortable during the session.

Third-fastest was George Russell, who had a tough session in the Mercedes-AMG.

Russell and teammate Lewis Hamilton both reported brake problems early in the session, though both drivers spent much of the session on the harder, Medium tyre, while many others used Pirelli’s faster, Soft tyre.

Hamilton also reported a damaged floor late in the session.

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Ferrari star Charles Leclerc recorded the fourth-fastest time, while Japanese star Yuki Tsunoda was fifth fastest in the RB-Honda.

Perez, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz and Hamilton made up the rest of the top nine drivers, who were covered by a tiny 0.207sec.

After missing the last Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia due to appendix surgery (which was 13 days ago), Sainz was not heard to make any mention of discomfort during the session, though Oliver Bearman, who substituted for the Spaniard last time out and who is entered in the Formula 2® event at Albert Park, remains on standby.

It was a tricky session for the Australian drivers. Oscar Piastri was 10th fastest, the McLaren driver reporting a slow Red Bull on the racing line just as he was pushing late in the session.

Right behind was Daniel Ricciardo, 11th fastest in the RB-Honda, after completing a session-high 25 laps, many of them on the harder tyre.

Unluckiest man in the session was Fernando Alonso, who had to have a floor repaired on his Aston Martin after surfing over a kerb early in the session, forcing the 2006 Australian Grand Prix winner to miss most of the last half-hour. As a result, he was just 18th fastest.

The Formula 1® drivers will be back on the track for the second one-hour Practice session at 4:00 pm.