Carlos Sainz Jnr was quickest ahead of Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc during the first practice session of Formula 1’s return to Melbourne.
Both Ferraris topped the times during the first practice session around the heavily modified Albert Park circuit, with the Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen third and fourth fastest.
A warm, sunny Albert Park circuit greeted the drivers during first official Formula 1 session held in Australia since 2019.
When the lights at the end of the pit lane went green, Red Bull sent out Perez with a large aero rake on his RB18, swapping the front wing configuration on his car for a back-to-back test. Sainz’s start to his weekend was delayed when he was told to turn his power unit off just before leaving the pit lane as Ferrari as the team corrected a problem with his car’s nose.
The Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu became the first drivers to set a new lap time around the new-look Albert Park circuit, before Max Verstappen set the early pace of a 1’21.
As drivers got to grips with the heavily revised circuit, traffic became an issue for many around the circuit. Lance Stroll complained that Lewis Hamilton was in his way through the final sector, before Zhou’s efforts to pass Sainz before the final corner were rebuffed by the Ferrari driver.
The session was briefly red-flagged when a small piece of debris fell off Verstappen’s Red Bull out of the final corner, coming to rest on the racing line. The session quickly resumed once the offending item was retrieved by a marshal.
After a delayed start to the session, Sainz made up for lost time by going quickest of all with the soft tyres, setting a 1’19’806 to be half a second faster than Ferrari team mate Leclerc, who had a brief excursion across the grass on the exit of the first corner.
Kevin Magnussen had a trip across the gravel after missing his braking point for the turn three hairpin, while Fernando Alonso had a spin on the exit of turn 11, looping his Alpine around 180 degrees before recovering.
George Russell was unhappy with Perez for slowing on the racing line on the approach to the fast chicane of turns nine and ten, while Alonso also complained about traffic in the final sector. After his unhappiness with Hamilton earlier in the session, Stroll was summoned to the stewards following practice for allegedly impeding Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.
Sebastian Vettel endured a frustrating start to his season when his Aston Martin began juddering on the newly-created long back straight, eventually pulling off track on the run to turn 11. With smoke escaping from the airbox of his AMR22, Vettel acquired a CO2 fire extinguisher from a nearby marshal and attempting to prevent his car from being cooked in the Melbourne heat.
When the session restarted, teams opted to focus on higher fuel runs rather than overall pace, meaning none of the top drivers improved their times. That left Sainz as fastest overall ahead of Leclerc and the Red Bulls of Perez and Verstappen.
Lando Norris was fifth fastest for McLaren, ahead of Ocon in sixth. Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo, Fernando Alonso and Valtteri Bottas completed the top ten positions.
After the chequered flag, Vettel took to the circuit using a moped to recover from turn 11 back to the pitlane. However, the stewards announced that he was under investigation for “entering the track without permission” and may be at risk of a penalty for Sunday’s grand prix.
2022 Australian Grand Prix first practice result
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2022 Australian Grand Prix
Tsunoda collects second reprimand as Hamilton and Stroll are cleared
Vettel fined £4,100 for riding moped on track after practice
Norris and Ricciardo cautious over McLaren’s pace after “best Friday so far”
Verstappen “a lot happier” with car after changes but Perez still puzzled by balance
“Frustrating” to be 1.2 seconds behind with a “decent lap” – Hamilton