The double world champion, whose delayed arrival in Jeddah meant he skipped Thursday’s media duties after battling a stomach bug this week, was 0.483s faster than Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez. 

Having dominated F1 2023’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix a fortnight ago, Verstappen and Red Bull made an ominous start to the weekend around the high-speed Jeddah track. 

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Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was best of the rest in third, 0.698s adrift of Verstappen’s FP1 benchmark and a couple of tenths faster than teammate Lance Stroll. 

George Russell pipped teammate Lewis Hamilton by just 0.016s in fifth but both Mercedes drivers wound up over a second off the pace. 

Carlos Sainz was seventh-quickest for Ferrari, ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, Williams’ Alex Albon and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, who completed the top-10 order. 

Charles Leclerc, who is carrying a 10-place grid penalty into the weekend for power unit changes, was only 11th, while McLaren’s Lando Norris was slowest of all in 20th.