Saturday, April 20, 2024

Verstappen Leads Alonso as F1 Returns From Summer Break

Max Verstappen topped the first practice session for the Dutch Grand Prix as Formula 1 returned from its summer break, much to the delight of the local fans.

Following a three-week break from racing, drivers recommenced action for the second part of the season, with plenty of excitement around the paddock surrounding what the second half of the season will bring.

As the session began with the green light, the drivers, led by Kevin Magnussen, who had just extended his contract with Haas F1 Team, ventured onto a dusty track. Oracle Red Bull Racing, who have triumphed in all twelve races prior to the summer break, introduced minor updates, while Scuderia Ferrari brought no modifications. In contrast, competitors McLaren F1 Team, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, and Aston Martin Armaco Cognisant F1 Team bought major upgrade packages

Several drivers initially opted for hard tyres, while a handful tested the mediums. Verstappen, the local favorite, drew cheers from the corners of the track as he swiftly set the initial pace, with Lewis Hamilton trailing over six-tenths of a second behind.

Aston Martin, though delayed by twenty minutes, didn’t have a smooth opening few laps as Fernando Alonso took a trip through the gravel; Lance Stroll was instructed to return to the garage due to a suspected power unit issue. One after the other, drivers switched to soft tyres to do qualifying sims. Sergio Pérez claimed the quickest time before red flags emerged when Nico Hülkenberg spun into the gravel and collided with the barrier at Turn Fourteen.

Nico Hülkenberg at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Credit: Haas F1 Team

Resuming with eleven minutes left, Verstappen, who had briefly skidded into the gravel at Turn Twelve earlier in practice, surged to the top of the timing sheets with a lap time of 1:11.852s, leading Alonso by 0.278s.

Hamilton’s quick lap was disrupted by Hulkenberg’s incident, forcing him to abandon the attempt under the yellow flags. Nonetheless, he secured the third spot for Mercedes, ahead of Pérez, who finished fourth for Red Bull.

Williams Racing made an impressive start to the weekend with Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant claiming fifth and seventh on track. Lando Norris was sandwiched between them in sixth, while his teammate Oscar Piastri, who was running their new upgrade package, secured eighth.

Scuderia AlphaTauri also introduced upgrades, with Yuki Tsunoda running aero rakes on his car early on. The Japanese driver clinched ninth place, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo at thirteenth.

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly finished tenth and twelfth, with George Russell in the other Mercedes hampered by traffic and finishing eleventh.

Magnussen finished fourteenth for Haas, leading Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, who took fifteenth and seventeenth place on the timesheets, respectively, though neither used the soft tyre during the session.

Ferrari, without employing the soft tyre either, saw Charles Leclerc finish a lowly sixteenth place, while reserve driver Robert Shwartzman, substituting for Carlos Sainz Jr., finished nineteenth. Hülkenberg and Stroll were unable to return to the track, closing the session in eighteenth and last.

1 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 1:11.852 31
2 Fernando Alonso ASTON MARTIN ARAMCO MERCEDES 1:12.130 +0.278s 22
3 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:12.225 +0.373s 24
4 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA RBPT 1:12.323 +0.471s 27
5 Alexander Albon WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:12.447 +0.595s 25
6 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:12.460 +0.608s 22
7 Logan Sargeant WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:12.617 +0.765s 30
8 Oscar Piastri MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:12.658 +0.806s 21
9 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 1:12.749 +0.897s 21
10 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 1:12.802 +0.950s 29
11 George Russell MERCEDES 1:12.813 +0.961s 23
12 Pierre Gasly ALPINE RENAULT 1:12.895 +1.043s 30
13 Daniel Ricciardo ALPHATAURI HONDA RBPT 1:12.990 +1.138s 26
14 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:13.322 +1.470s 30
15 Valtteri Bottas ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 1:13.448 +1.596s 30
16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 1:13.519 +1.667s 26
17 Zhou Guanyu ALFA ROMEO FERRARI 1:13.826 +1.974s 20
18 Nico Hulkenberg HAAS FERRARI 1:14.023 +2.171s 13
19 Robert Shwartzman FERRARI 1:14.803 +2.951s 25