Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

Verstappen leads Perez by seven-tenths as times tumble at revised Catalunya track

2023 Spanish Grand Prix first practice

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Championship leader Max Verstappen led team mate Sergio Perez by seven tenths of a second as drivers familiarised themselves with the revised layout of the Circuit de Catalunya.

Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull with a 1’14.606, while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon was the quickest of the team’s rivals.

Despite a 30% chance of rain being forecast for the opening hour of running of the race weekend, the teams were treated to clear skies and temperatures in the mid-20s. With so many teams introducing new parts on their cars for this weekend, all were quick to head out on track and get some early data on their upgrades.

Aston Martin sent Fernando Alonso out the moment the green light appeared at the end of the pitlane with a large aero rake installed on his AMR22. He performed some slow laps to generate some base data for his team on their new front and rear wings parts before returning to the pit lane.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Ocon gave Alpine encouragement with third
Teams were also testing the new construction of tyres from Pirelli which are due to be introduced at the British Grand Prix in three rounds’ time. The vast majority of teams opted to run those prototype tyres for their initial laps, although the two Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both decided to complete runs on the revised rubber.

Verstappen set the early benchmark time of a 1’16.583 on medium compound tyres, before Perez moved to the top with a 1’16.420. Not to be outdone, Verstappen shaved four tenths of a second off Perez’s time to break into the 1’15s for the first time in the weekend.

Many drivers had their first experience of the much faster turn 13 as they bypassed the chicane which was introduced in 2007. However many drivers, including Verstappen and Russell, reported some porpoising in their car as they rounded the final right hander at speeds of 250kph.

The Red Bull drivers switched onto the soft tyres and immediately went much quicker. Perez posted a 1’15.374 to move to the top of the times, before Verstappen reclaimed the top spot with a 1’14.606 to go seven-tenths faster than his team mate.

That would remain the fastest lap of the session as no one would threaten his time for the remainder of practice. Teams spent the rest of the hour focusing on longer runs, with Alonso complaining about the viability of racing on the soft tyres he had been sent out on. In the closing moments, Pierre Gasly and Logan Sargeant made contact at the left hander of turn 10, but with no major damage done to either car.

At the end of the session, Verstappen was comfortably quickest from team mate Perez. Ocon finished the session in third, less than half a tenth behind Perez, with Nyck de Vries fourth-fastest in the AlphaTauri.

Pierre Gasly was fifth in the second Alpine, with Alonso sixth and Kevin Magnussen seventh. The two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr were eighth and ninth, though race control noted the latter may have committed an infringement when he performed his practice start. Sainz lined up directly behind Leclerc then pulled away before his team mate. The top 10 was completed by Russell’s Mercedes.

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix first practice result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’14.60631
211Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’15.3740.76832
331Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’15.4180.81228
421Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’15.5040.89827
510Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’15.5450.93927
614Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’15.5470.94124
720Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’15.6891.08322
816Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’15.6941.08828
955Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’15.7261.12027
1063George RussellMercedesW141’15.7531.14731
114Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’15.7831.17725
1244Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’15.8451.23929
1324Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’15.9061.30024
1422Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’15.9151.30927
1518Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’15.9391.33325
1677Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’15.9781.37224
1781Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’16.3531.74726
1827Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’16.4611.85528
192Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’16.5061.90030
2023Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’16.6302.02428

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2023 Spanish 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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3 comments on “Verstappen leads Perez by seven-tenths as times tumble at revised Catalunya track”

  1. This version of the track seems quite unsuited for Formula 1 racing.

    And with the current difference in pace, I guess everyone is reduced to praying for weather to intervene once again.

    1. All track configurations have been quite unsuited for F1.
      Only practice, so the pace differences can be misleading, but in some cases weather could indeed be the only factor bringing excitement, even if this track isn’t the worst for overtaking. @proesterchen

  2. Getting below the fastest pre-2007 lap time (overall fastest on any chicane-less configuration) of 1:14.637 from 2006 Q2 already in FP1 was good in case of rain during the remaining sessions before the race.

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