Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2023

Verstappen spins but goes quickest as GPS fault causes red flag

2023 Australian Grand Prix first practice

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Championship leader Max Verstappen was quickest in a frantic and incident filled first practice session for the Australian Grand Prix despite a late spin.

The Red Bull driver went quickest by four tenths of a second over Lewis Hamilton and the second Red Bull off Sergio Perez. Verstappen’s final flying lap saw him spin at the exit of turn four, briefly facing backwards off the track, but he was able to continue.

Sunny skies over Melbourne greeted drivers as they ventured out around Albert Park for the first time in the weekend, with relatively mild temperatures of 18C ambient and track temperature at 31C. With the threat of rain for the day’s second practice session, drivers were quick to head out and make the most of the opening hour.

In the early minutes, Red Bull set the early pace with Perez posting a 1’20.267, a full second ahead of team mate Verstappen. Hamilton went second fastest for Mercedes, less than half a tenth behind Perez, before Verstappen went comfortably fastest with a 1’19.332 on soft tyres.

There were many complaints of porpoising through the field early in the session, with Mercedes’ Hamilton, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Williams’ Logan Sargeant all reporting bouncing along the straights in their cars. Not unusually, Verstappen was unhappy with the quality of the gear shifts on his Red Bull, while Kevin Magnussen brought out the first yellow flag of the weekend by running wide at turn three and taking to the gravel.

After the initial runs, the track fell quiet as cars returned to the garage. The two Ferrari drivers, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr moved into third and fourth, half a second behind the Red Bulls.

As the session reached the midway point, teams began sending their drivers out on soft tyres. Yuki Tsunoda suffered a high-speed spin at the first corner, bouncing over the gravel on the exit of the corner, but avoiding making contact with the barriers. Perez’s first flying lap on the softs was ruined by a mistake on the exit of turn four, causing him to back off.

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With many drivers out on the circuit, traffic became a concern for the teams. However, this became significantly harder when the Global Positioning System used to track cars around the circuit failed, leaving teams unable to advise drivers on the cars around them. There was a large traffic jam on the exit of the turn nine and ten chicane, while Zhou Guanyu and Nico Hulkenberg both had to take avoiding action at the turn 13 hairpin to avoid collecting other cars.

The session was red-flagged while the GPS problem was addressed. After a delay of ten minutes, the session resumed with just under 15 minutes remaining. The track quickly filled once more, with Verstappen taking to the track on soft tyres for the first time. On his next attempt on the soft tyres, Verstappen ran wide at turn four, losing control over the exit kerb and spinning his Red Bull. He recovered back to the track, but his soft rubber was ruined and he had to abandon his run.

In the final five minutes, Sargeant reported a sudden loss of power in his Williams. He pulled off the track on the exit of turn 11, which brought out the second red flag of the hour. With only a handful of minutes remaining, the session was not restarted, leaving Verstappen on top of the times despite his spin.

Just before the red flag, Hamilton moved into second place between the two Red Bull drivers, four tenths slower than Verstappen’s best. Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest for Aston Martin ahead of the two Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz.

Lando Norris was seventh for McLaren, with Pierre Gasly and George Russell behind. Lance Stroll completed the top ten for Aston Martin.

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2023 Australian Grand Prix first practice result

Position Number Driver Team Model Time Gap Laps
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull RB19 1’18.790 17
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1’19.223 0.433 20
3 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull RB19 1’19.293 0.503 19
4 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’19.317 0.527 23
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1’19.378 0.588 16
6 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-23 1’19.505 0.715 20
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’19.536 0.746 16
8 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A523 1’19.646 0.856 22
9 63 George Russell Mercedes W14 1’19.699 0.909 23
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’19.766 0.976 19
11 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’19.766 0.976 21
12 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’19.777 0.987 22
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’19.806 1.016 19
14 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Red Bull AT04 1’19.933 1.143 25
15 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’20.074 1.284 21
16 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A523 1’20.175 1.385 20
17 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull AT04 1’20.399 1.609 14
18 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’20.419 1.629 21
19 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’20.569 1.779 22
20 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’21.147 2.357 17

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2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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18 comments on “Verstappen spins but goes quickest as GPS fault causes red flag”

  1. I get the ‘GPS as a safety device’ thing – but that going down shouldn’t prevent the session from continuing.
    If a driver really insists on breaking the rules by driving unnecessarily slowly, than they should at least be sensible enough to do it far, far away from the racing line and not in places that have blind entries or exits.

    When will they take the actual driving safety seriously?
    My bet is never – especially not when they are so heavily reliant on GPS.

    1. Without GPS they think they had clear track for them so they had time to setup their begin. Without GPS the negineers can’t warn them.

  2. Max fined 700 euro speeding entering pit lane

  3. Weird end of session from him trundling around in no-mans land speed, understeering happily, losing it, then looking unperturbed or even disinterested getting out. No anger or disappointment (showing). Yet still at top of times.🫤

  4. That’s the second time in two sessions that the FIA’s GPS system has not been up to the mark…

    1. @alianora-la-canta Maybe they use bing maps ;)

  5. Bit wild and woolly everywhere. Bit of patience needed. Bedrin F3 almost bedridden after a big one.
    To be fair there seems to be a degree of 4 wheel sliding going on . I mean 4 wheels pointing in the same direction but the whole car sliding in a different direction to edge or off circuit.

  6. LOL @alianora-la-canta to V8 supercars started with green flag after lights stuck on red.

  7. So a temporary GPS shutdown caused a red flag.

    1. Apparently this
      due to a glitch with the GPS system, meaning teams were unable to inform drivers of approaching traffic, causing near misses at high speed.

  8. Bit on intermittent misty precipitation may cause even more “fun”

  9. I can see ‘GPS problem’ being used to create safety cars and artificially spice up the show going forward.

    1. I think we’ve seen it already!

    2. Definitely. I foresee a lot of half distance/three quarter race distance ‘gps problems’ this season!

  10. Lewis out on inter’s like others having a lap of catching practice. That Merc needs to be tamed.

  11. I don’t see why the GPS issue caused a red flag given how they managed perfectly without any GPS systems up until what 15-ish years ago?

    Just tell drivers on slower laps to stay well off the racing line & watch there mirrors…. You know like they used to.

    1. You mean, like driving alone and unaided and not driving unnecessarily slowly?
      That’s just what the rules say, so they can be safely ignored…

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