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Formula 1 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix 2024

Verstappen suffers rare practice misery as Ferrari lay down home soil marker

A one-three for a heavily upgraded Ferrari at Imola but woe for Max Verstappen. What on earth was going on? He was not happy!

Verstappen Imola FP1
To news overview © XPBimages

Ferrari scored a one-three in opening practice for the first of two races on home soil this season and in a heavily upgraded car. 

Much had been made of Ferrari's updates in the build-up to this event, with the Scuderia opting against a back-to-back comparison and instead deploying the full package - consisting of front wing, rear wing, sidepod inlet, engine cover, floor edge, diffuser, and rear suspension - on both cars for Imola.

It was Charles Leclerc who had the egde, the Monégasque the only driver to dip below 77 seconds for a lap with a time of 1:16.990s, finishing a tenth of a second ahead of Mercedes' George Russell, with Carlos Carlos just 26-hundredths adrift of the Briton.

For three-time champion Max Verstappen, the hour-long session was a miserable one. Once on the soft-tyre runs late on, the 26-year initially complained of bottoming through Turn 11 after setting the fastest first sector.

On the following run, Verstappen then cut the grass at the Variante Alta, before his final attempt saw him take to the gravel out of T11 again, leaving Red Bull with work to do in between sessions to resolve the clear issues with the car.

Verstappen had to settle for the fifth-fastest time, a quarter of a second down on Leclerc, with Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez also ahead of the Dutch driver by just 0.007s.

Result Free practice 1 - Emilia Romagna

# Driver Team Time Tyre
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Surprisingly, the teams opted to run different tyre compounds from the off, notably with the Red Bulls on softs, Mercedes on the mediums, and Ferrari opting for hards for the opening track inspections.

It resulted in Sainz, then Verstappen, and then Russell setting the leading time, with the latter posting a 1:19.704s before the Briton was ousted by RB's Yuki Tsunoda, on the hard tyre, going seven-tenths of a second quicker.

The Japanese driver was not top for long, however, as Russell regained the advantage before Lewis Hamilton ousted his team-mate, only for McLaren's Oscar Piastri, then Verstappen, to take control, the latter with a 1:18.606s, highlighting how quickly the times tumbled in a matter of minutes.

Tsunoda was on a flier shortly after, setting the quickest time in the first sector, only to put his right-rear wheel on the gravel in the last sector, a feat bizarrely repeated by Hamilton moments later as he had also purpled the opening sector.

Instead, Russell returned to the top of the times with a 1:18.193 before becoming the first driver to dip below the 78-second mark by just under a tenth of a second.

On a fresh set of mediums, Hamilton purpled sectors two and three, however, a slow first sector saw him finish that particular lap a tenth of a second behind Russell before the session was red-flagged due to a technical issue with Alex Albon's Williams, the car shutting down after riding a kerb.

After a seven-minute break, Leclerc hit the track with a set of soft tyres and surged to the top of the timesheet by almost half a second ahead of Russell before team-mate Sainz took over, shaving just over three-tenths of a second off the lap with a 1:17.120.

Russell was not to be outdone, pipping Sainz by 0.026s on his next hot lap before Leclerc dipped below 77 seconds by 10 hundredths just as Hamilton endured a spin. Moments before that, Sainz had also cut a corner and was forced over the grass.

Setting off on his initial low-fuel run on soft tyres, Verstappen was forced to pit immediately as a tear-off visor lodged in a brake duct. Once cleared, he seemed poised to go top after purpling sector one, only to finish a quarter of a second down after losing time in the middle sector, as he was also quickest in sector three.

Verstappen pointed out that Turn 11 was his problem, with no grip on entry, the car bottoming out, resulting in a poor exit.

Going again, Verstappen again purpled sector one, lost considerable time in sector two, and, like Sainz, previously, ran over the grass at the Variante Alta. Turn 11 again proved his undoing on his final attempt where he ran over the gravel.

Behind Verstappen, Tsunoda was the best of the RB drivers. Daniel Ricciardo, who at one stage after 35 minutes had to take to the gravel at Rivazza as a slow Red Bull was ahead of him, finished 13th, eight-tenths of a second down on his team-mate.

Hamilton was seventh followed by Lando Norris and Piastri, both running the full upgrade package at this event as the latter only had half in Miami where the Briton scored his first win in F1.

Fernando Alonso, running one of the biggest upgrade packages of the season, with the AMR24 sporting a new front wing, nose, floor, engine cover, rear suspension, and rear corner, completed the 10, nearly nine-tenths of a second adrift. In contrast, team-mate Lance Stroll drove the pre-spec car as the team comparison tested, and was 12th behind Alpine's Pierre Gasly

Oliver Bearman will have approached the first of his six FP1s with Haas this season after crashing his Prema in F2 practice a couple of hours before the F1 outing in replacing Kevin Magnussen.

The 19-year-old, however, regained his composure, and in an older-spec Haas, with Nico Hulkenberg running the recently updated version, Bearman finished 15th quickest. Hullkenberg was slowest, over four seconds down, but with Haas clearly going for long run pace over any outright times. 

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