By Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent, Melbourne
Lewis Hamilton finished second to Max Verstappen in opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was four tenths back from the Red Bull driver, with Sergio Perez third. Fernando Alonso finished fourth for Aston Martin.
The opening running of the weekend at Melbourne’s Albert Park was red-flagged on two occasions, firstly when the GPS systems went down at the temporary track, and then in the closing minutes as Logan Sargeant broke down in his Williams.
🏁 FP1 CLASSIFICATION 🏁
Max Verstappen finishes on top in an action-packed FP1 in Melbourne! 🍿🤯#AusGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/VTahnRhkUL
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 31, 2023
Sargeant’s mechanical failure arrived just minutes after Verstappen survived a spin at Turn 4.
The championship leader, who earlier took an unscheduled trip across the gravel, rode the kerb on the exit of the left-hander before pirouetting in his Red Bull in a plume of tyre smoke.
“These tyres are complete f***** now,” said the Dutchman.
Verstappen was also fined for speeding in the pit lane. The double world champion will have to pay £615 for going 4mph over the 50mph speed limit.
Verstappen was among a plethora of drivers to run off the road with Yuki Tsunoda surviving a big moment when he was temporarily launched airborne as he skidded across the sand trap in his AlphaTauri. The Japanese driver avoided damage and limped back to the pits.
It’s good to be back! 🇦🇺 pic.twitter.com/8QYBIY4ERp
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) March 30, 2023
For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion also momentarily lost control of his Mercedes at the 11th corner, before returning to the track to clock the second quickest time, providing him with encouragement heading into the remainder of the weekend.
Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fifth and sixth respectively for Ferrari, with Lando Norris seventh for McLaren.
Norris’ team-mate, Oscar Piastri – the first man from Melbourne to race at Albert Park – was 12th, less than a second off the pace.
The concluding practice session on Friday gets under way at 4pm local time (6am UK).