As the first ever Qatar Grand Prix weekend got under way, it was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who hit the ground running at the Losail International Circuit, going fastest in Free Practice 1, ahead of the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly, and the leading Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
Beneath a hot, hazy sky, the drivers emerged blinking from the garages for their first ever laps in an F1 car of the fast and flowing 5.38km Losail track – with the stewards taking a laissez faire approach to track limits in FP1 as the drivers evaluated the extent they could push in the corners, leading to a number of off-track excursions.
Despite the stewards still deliberating over his defensive move on Lewis Hamilton from a week ago in Brazil, Verstappen put that all to the back of his mind to clock the fastest ever lap at Losail, with a 1m 23.723s.
That was a full 0.437s quicker than the impressive Gasly, and 0.471s faster than Bottas could manage for Mercedes. The Finn was a further three-tenths up on team mate Hamilton, who complained of feeling underpowered throughout the session, while Mercedes reported to the seven-time champ that he “may have a car issue” 10 minutes from the end, although he was able to pit and then re-join the session.
It was unclear, too, which of the power units from his pool Hamilton was running.
FORMULA 1 OOREDOO QATAR GRAND PRIX 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:23.723|
|2 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri||+0.437s|
|3 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||+0.471s|
|4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+0.786s|
|5 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri||+0.925s|