Saturday, July 20, 2024

Russell Leads Mercedes 1-2 in First Miami Practice

The opening practice session of the Miami Grand Prix saw George Russell set the pace, with his Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc following in second and third place respectively. With track temperatures soaring up to 51C under the sweltering Miami heat, the drivers took to the resurfaced Miami International Autodrome for the first time to familiarize themselves with the track conditions, and it provided some interesting results.

Max Verstappen got off to a strong start, setting the early pace on the hard tire ahead of Leclerc and Hamilton. The session wasn’t all easy going for Mercedes though, Russell was forced to return to the pits after experiencing vibrations on his steering wheel. His Mercedes mechanics had to change the steering rack on his W14 to resolve the issue.

After the drivers completed their initial runs on the hard and medium tires, they switched to the softer rubber. Verstappen continued to lead the pack with a time of 1m 31.054s just before a red flag was waved after Nico Hulkenberg crashed. Following the break, the Mercedes pair left it late to set their times on the soft tire, with Russell crossing the line to set a time of 1m 30.125s, surpassing Hamilton’s brief time at the top by 0.212s.

Credit: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula 1 Team

Leclerc, who finished in third place, provided an early glimpse of the potential of the upgraded floor on the Ferrari. Meanwhile, his teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. finished fifth, and Verstappen ended the session in fourth, sandwiched between the Ferrari drivers. Pierre Gasly finished an impressive sixth quickest for BWT Alpine F1 Team, who are looking to build some much needed momentum going into the weekend. The Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team duo of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll in seventh and eighth place respectively. Hulkenberg’s time was still good enough to secure him ninth place, while the other Alpine of Esteban Ocon rounded out the top-10.

Rather surprisingly, Sergio Perez, who won the previous race in Baku, finished in eleventh place, ahead of McLaren F1 Team’s Oscar Piastri in twelfth, and Kevin Magnussen’s Haas in thirteenth place. Valtteri Bottas was the lead Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake driver in fourteenth place, ahead of the Williams Racing of Alex Albon and Lando Norris in the other McLaren. Zhou Guanyu finished in seventeenth place, ahead of the Scuderia AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda in eighteenth, with Logan Sargeant finishing nineteenth for Williams. Nyck de Vries finished the session at the bottom of the timesheets.

Overall, the session provided an early indication of the pecking order, with Mercedes and Ferrari showing promising signs of pace. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s still early days in the weekend, and there’s still plenty of time for the other teams to catch up. The drivers will have another chance to fine-tune their setups in the second practice session before qualifying on Saturday.