Leclerc makes fast start in Jeddah, Hamilton only ninth

Charles Leclerc made a flying start to Formula 1’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend as he topped the timesheets from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in opening practice in Jeddah. 
Leclerc makes fast start in Jeddah, Hamilton only ninth

The Ferrari driver, who won last weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, surged to the top of the order in the closing stages of first practice with a 1m30.772s to end up 0.116s clear of reigning world champion Verstappen. 

Leclerc’s benchmark time was set on Pirelli’s soft tyres, while Verstappen produced his best lap on the hard tyres after aborting his first run on softs and then suffering a snap on his second effort. 

Valtteri Bottas made a late move up the order to put his Alfa Romeo third in the timesheets, just 0.312s off the pace. 

Carlos Sainz struggled with bouncing in his Ferrari on his way to fourth, ahead of AlphaTauri pairing Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda who took fifth and sixth respectively. 

Seventh place went the way of Sergio Perez, who finished 0.791s down in the second Red Bull, while Esteban Ocon was eighth-quickest for Alpine. 

It proved to be a difficult start to the weekend for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, with the reigning world champions still trying to address the porpoising issue it believes is holding back the true performance of its W13 challenger. 

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13.

Hamilton could only set the ninth-fastest time on soft tyres, some 1.5s off the pace, as he reported “a lot of bouncing” throughout the opening 60 minutes of running in Jeddah. 

Mercedes teammate George Russell ended up 15th after spending much of FP1 running a different rear wing configuration to Hamilton. 

Just 0.017s back from Hamilton, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Alpine. 

Opening practice was interrupted by a brief red flag when McLaren’s Lando Norris clipped a 50m brake marker that had fallen onto the circuit at Turn 1, leaving remnants of polystyrene strewn all across the end of the straight.  

After claiming a sensational fifth place in Bahrain, Kevin Magnussen failed to set a time in first practice after his Haas suffered a hydraulic leak on his out-lap. 

The Dane was unable to rejoin the session with the American outfit required to change the radiator on his VF-22. 

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