Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Miami International Autodrome, 2023

Russell recovers from steering rack delay to lead Mercedes one-two in first practice

2023 Miami Grand Prix first practice

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George Russell overcame a delay of more than 20 minutes in the garage to go quickest ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton in first practice in Miami.

After his mechanics replaced the steering rack on his car, Russell set the fastest time in the final minutes on soft tyres to top the times, two tenths ahead of Hamilton. Charles Leclerc was third fastest for Ferrari, ahead of Max Verstappen, who was quickest for much of the earlier part of the session.

It was a hot and humid start to the second Miami Grand Prix weekend with ambient temperatures just below 30C when the green light signalled the start of the opening hour of practice. Drivers immediately found that the fresh, resurfaced circuit offered very little grip – especially off the racing line – with Verstappen reporting as much over his radio.

Kevin Magnussen was the first driver to set a lap time with a 1’38.852, but that was quickly eclipsed by Esteban Ocon and his first lap in the Alpine by four-hundredths of a second. Verstappen then went fastest of all on his first lap of the weekend on the hard compound tyres, despite running wide and off the circuit at the turn one.

George Russell reported steering problems on his Mercedes and returned to the garage while he team changed the steering rack on his W14. He would remain in the garage for around 20 minutes as his mechanics reverted his car to an earlier spec of steering rack, eventually getting back out onto the circuit at the midpoint of the session.

Nyck de Vries had a spin at turn 12, having to swing his AlphaTauri around to continue on his way. He was briefly investigated by the stewards for “dangerous driving” due to the manner in which he rejoined the circuit, however the stewards quickly determined no fault had been committed by the AlphaTauri driver.

Nico Hulkenberg put Haas on top of the times with a 1’31.392 on the soft compound tyres, but that was later beaten by Verstappen by three tenths of a second as the championship leader put on the soft tyres for the first time. Then Hulkenberg lost the rear of his car rounding the fast right hander of turn three and spun into the outside barrier, causing significant damage to his car and bringing out the red flags for the first time in the weekend.

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After a delay of just under 10 minutes, the session resumed with 17 minutes of the session remaining. Verstappen immediately improved on his own best time, setting a 1’30.549. The two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Leclerc improved to go around half a second slower than Verstappen, also on the soft tyres, with Fernando Alonso fourth fastest for Aston Martin.

Drivers continued to struggle for grip in the final laps of the session, with Alexander Albon running off at the hairpin of turn 17. Pierre Gasly had to catch a snap of oversteer that saw him run off at the marina hairpin.

However, there were no such difficulties for the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Russell, who took to the track in the final minutes on soft tyres. They both jumped to the top of the times, with Russell’s 1’30.125 beating Hamilton by two tenths of a second.

With the chequered flag signalling the end of the session, Mercedes’ one-two in the opening hour of practice was officially confirmed. Leclerc moved ahead of Verstappen in the final minutes to end the session in third, dropping Verstappen down to fourth ahead of Sainz in fifth.

Gasly was sixth-fastest for Alpine, ahead of the two Aston Martins of Alonso and Lance Stroll. Hulkenberg remained ninth despite his crash, with Ocon completing the top ten in the second Alpine.

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2023 Miami Grand Prix first practice result

Position Number Driver Team Model Time Gap Laps
1 63 George Russell Mercedes W14 1’30.125 18
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1’30.337 0.212 24
3 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1’30.449 0.324 23
4 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull RB19 1’30.549 0.424 22
5 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-23 1’30.724 0.599 23
6 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A523 1’31.104 0.979 20
7 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’31.231 1.106 24
8 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’31.337 1.212 24
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’31.392 1.267 14
10 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A523 1’31.542 1.417 27
11 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull RB19 1’31.566 1.441 22
12 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’31.810 1.685 24
13 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’31.853 1.728 25
14 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’31.902 1.777 24
15 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’31.903 1.778 25
16 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’31.997 1.872 23
17 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’32.134 2.009 22
18 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Red Bull AT04 1’32.169 2.044 28
19 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’32.619 2.494 27
20 21 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Red Bull AT04 1’34.637 4.512 10

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2023 Miami Grand Prix

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Author information

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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4 comments on “Russell recovers from steering rack delay to lead Mercedes one-two in first practice”

  1. Can’t wait for Günther to undermine the significantly quicker driver of his team in support of his beloved Danish Disappointment.

    1. You mean the one who slammed into the wall?

    2. While I’m certainly anti-steiner, I haven’t seen any evidence he might be favouring magnussen, he even fired him in his previous stint.

  2. Old Yuki returned with a sweary radio complaint.

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