Sergio Pérez Tops First Practice Session of the Season in Bahrain
Sergio Pérez continued the impressive form of Oracle Red Bull Racing in the first free practice session of the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season as the teams prepare further for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The first twenty minutes of the session saw Pérez setting the pace on the medium compound tyre, but the headline from the session was the form of Fernando Alonso, who sat just five-tenths behind the Mexican driver in the first third of the question. The session wasn’t completely smooth running for Aston Martin though, with Lance Stroll’s first session with the car, after missing pre-season testing, being interrupted by an ignition issue.
The first drivers on the soft tyres were the duo of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg, but they were still 1.077s and 1.522s respectively away from Pérez’s benchmark on the medium tyre of 1:34.343. The change to soft tyres for the Haas duo sparked a change of tyres across the paddock, with the majority switching to the red-striped tyre.
The Red Bull duo of Pérez and Max Verstappen set their times on the soft tyres halfway through the session, which ended up being their fastest times of the day, with Pérez setting another benchmark of 1:32:758. Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team struggled to challenge Red Bull in the session, with both teams choosing not to run the soft tyre compound at all, though Charles Leclerc did manage to end up in fifth position behind Lando Norris despite only running on the medium.
Alonso managed to once again jump into second place, just 0.438s off the time of Pérez once the session had finished. Verstappen looked off the pace surprisingly and was a further two-tenths back in third place. McLaren F1 Team slightly improved on a disappointing testing with Norris in fourth and Oscar Piastri completing his first session with the team in twelfth position. Despite having limited running in the session and completely missing pre-season testing, Stroll managed to put in a strong lap to finish the session behind Leclerc in sixth position.
Team-mates Guanyu Zhou and Valtteri Bottas finished eighth and ninth position respectively for Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake ahead of the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, although they only put in times on the medium tyre. BWT Alpine F1 Team didn’t have the ideal session with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly finishing fifteenth and seventeenth respectively, the story was similar for Scuderia AlphaTauri with Yuki Tsunoda limited to thirteenth on his soft tyre run and rookie Nyck de Vries struggling down in sixteenth.
Despite showing pace early on in the session, the Williams Racing pair of Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon finished eighteenth and nineteenth, with the latter being 3.458s off the pace in the FW45.
Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded the session up in last place, with a difficult session for the Spaniard, which included a spin mid-way through the hour. It’s clear there is more to see from the Ferrari driver and he will be hoping for smoother running in FP2 later today.