Max Verstappen topped both FP1 and FP2 on Friday at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The Dutchman missed Thursday’s media duties at the Jeddah Corniche street circuit after suffering with a stomach bug earlier in the week but he arrived in the Middle East on Friday fully recovered, and so it showed out on track.
In FP1, the defending double world champion went fastest ahead of his team-mate Sergio Perez in the other Red Bull whilst Fernando Alonso, as he was at the end of the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this month, was third behind the two cars representing the Milton Keynes-based team.
Indeed, Red Bull’s place at the top is no shock but that is already starting to feel the case with Aston for this season as well, with them following up their good showing in Bahrain with a solid opening day of running in Saudi, as Lance Stroll took P4 for the team in FP1.
Mercedes’ George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were fifth and sixth respectively in the first practice session, meanwhile, whilst Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda completed the top ten in the warm Saudi sunshine.
As for FP2, a more representative session in terms of what is to come in qualifying and the race in terms of conditions as it was conducted after sunset, it was once again Verstappen in charge.
He went just over two tenths quicker than Alonso in the Aston, whilst his long-runs during the session, replicating race runs, were also looking, perhaps unsurprisingly, very strong as well.
Alonso will certainly be happy with the day’s running, meanwhile, as the Aston took a very different challenge of the Jeddah track compared to Bahrain in its stride, and if he can start on the front row on Sunday evening he will surely fancy a run at leading into turn one, even if the Red Bull may well have the measure of the Aston over the course of Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez was third in FP2, less than a tenth down on Alonso, and these three are starting to feel a familiar trio up at the front in the early stages of this season.
Behind them, signs of good Alpine progress with Esteban Ocon recording the fourth-fastest time, four tenths off of Verstappen, with Russell in the Mercedes splitting the Frenchman from his compatriot and team-mate, Pierre Gasly, who was sixth-fastest and six hundredths slower than Ocon – positive signs indeed for the French/British team.
Lance Stroll was P7 in the other Aston Martin, whilst Nico Hulkenberg was the fastest Ferrari-powered driver in his Haas in FP2, coming in ahead of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz who completed the top ten – the Scuderia have a bit of time to find before qualifying tomorrow.
Friday’s running is done and dusted in Saudi, then, and up next tomorrow is FP3 before qualifying which takes place at 5pm GMT.