Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Losail International Circuit, 2023

Verstappen leads the Ferrari pair in dusty sole practice session at Losail

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen set the fastest time in the only practice session for the Qatar Grand Prix ahead of the two Ferraris.

The championship leader was three tenths of a second quicker than Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc in a session where drivers battled for grip on a very dusty circuit.

The sun was already well on its way towards the horizon as the first and sole practice session of the weekend got underway. The resurfaced Losail International Circuit, located in the desert, was incredibly dusty as the field headed out onto the track for the first time, with sand and dust being visibly kicked up as cars took their first laps around the circuit.

Most teams opted for hard tyres for their exploratory runs, with Sainz setting the initial pace with a very cautious 1’37.214 in his Ferrari. Verstappen was happy to go much faster out of the garage, posting a 1’34.913 on his first effort of the session.

As drivers got familiarised with the circuit, they found that there was very little natural grip available and ever less off-line. Leclerc ran wide at turn 13, with Lando Norris clipping one of the brake marker boards, resulting in polystyrene getting caught in his front wing, leading to him having to pit.

Lap times quickly tumbled with the extreme track evolution. George Russell was the first driver into the 1’31s, but less than ten minutes later Verstappen was into the 1’29s. That was in spite of a major oversteer moment out of turn 10, which sent the championship leader briefly off track.

Fernando Alonso took the fastest time with a 1’28.624, with the Aston Martin driver sitting atop the standings until the McLarens of Oscar Piastri and Norris went slightly faster. By now, the sun had almost completely set and the floodlights were now illuminating the circuit. With conditions cooling, Leclerc set a new best time of the session with a 1’28.104 on the medium compound tyres, almost three tenths faster than the McLarens.

With qualifying approaching, the final 10 minutes of running were dedicated to low-fuel runs. Nico Hulkenberg jumped up to second on the soft tyres, before Alonso retook the top spot with a 1’27.919 on fresh mediums. Sergio Perez was unable to match the Aston Martin driver on the soft tyres but Verstappen easily beat Alonso to go almost half a second clear at the top with a 1’27.428.

Only the Ferrari duo could get any closer to Verstappen’s best, both jumping ahead of Alonso into second and third. But that would be all the improvements at the top of the order before the chequered flag signalled the end of practice.

Verstappen’s advantage was over three tenths at the end of the hour from the two Ferraris with Alonso fourth ahead of Perez. Yuki Tsunoda set the sixth-fastest time with Hulkenberg seventh and Russell eighth. The two McLarens of Piastri and Norris were ninth and tenth.

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2023 Qatar Grand Prix first practice result

P.#DriverTeamModelTimeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’27.42826
255Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’27.7620.33427
316Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’27.9090.48127
414Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’27.9190.49128
511Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’28.0160.58824
622Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’28.0270.59928
727Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’28.1710.74322
863George RussellMercedesW141’28.3360.90828
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’28.3800.95220
104Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’28.4411.01324
112Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’28.5501.12225
1223Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’28.5901.16226
1344Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’28.6791.25126
1418Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’28.6901.26228
1531Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’28.7321.30425
1610Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’28.8211.39323
1777Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’29.0411.61327
1824Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’29.1061.67829
1940Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’29.2381.81029
2020Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’29.5022.07426

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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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