Championship leader Max Verstappen set the fastest lap of the first practice session for the this inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, outpacing sister team driver Pierre Gasly by four tenths of a second as Valtteri Bottas finished third. Title contender Lewis Hamilton ended the session more than seven tenths of a second off the pace, complaining a lack of power on the circuit’s long straight.
Verstappen led the way in the early part of the session, running hard tyres, with the Red Bull driver swapping table-topping times with the medium tyre-shod McLaren on Lando Norris as drivers got to grips with the flat, wide-open expanses of a circuit making its first appearance in F1 and which is more associated with MotoGP.
Bottas then bolted a set of soft tyres to jump to the top of the order but Verstappen was soon back in charge thanks to a similarly equipped lap of 1:23.723 that as the session’s best until he chequered flag.
Bottas was close to holding on to second place, but Gasly went for a late run on softs at the end of the session and jumped three hundredths of a second ahead of the Finn with a lap of 1:24.160.
Behind the top three Hamilton claimed fourth place, though his best lap of 1:24.509 left him 0.786s off the pace of Verstappen. Seven-timer champion Hamilton was unhappy with his car throughout the session, asking his pit wall whether his engine was down on power on the straights. He was told, however, that he was running at similar speeds to his rivals. Later in the session Mercedes asked Hamilton to bring the car back to the pit lane as he had sustained damage running over kerbs.
Yuki Tsunoda finished the session in fifth place, while Carlos Sainz was the lead Ferrari in sixth place with team-mate Charles Leclerc in seventh. Sergio Pérez took eighth for Red Bull ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Norris.
However, Norris also fell foul of Losail’s kerbs. The Briton was forced to return to the pit lane after losing power after running wide in Turn 15 and clattering along the serrated kerb on the outside of the corner. He was able to return to the track later in the session.
There was trouble, too, for Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll. The Canadian reported a brake failure and only completed 11 laps in the session.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:23.723 22 231.334
2 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:24.160 0.437 28 230.133
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:24.194 0.471 24 230.040
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.509 0.786 21 229.182
5 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 11:24.648 0.925 27 228.806
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:24.713 0.990 26 228.630
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:24.790 1.067 27 228.423
8 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:24.915 1.192 22 228.086
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:24.972 1.249 23 227.933
10 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:25.215 1.492 19 227.283
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:25.291 1.568 24 227.081
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:25.328 1.605 19 226.982
13 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:25.688 1.965 24 226.029
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:25.757 2.034 23 225.847
15 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:25.828 2.105 25 225.660
16 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:25.871 2.148 24 225.547
17 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:25.905 2.182 21 225.458
18 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:26.699 2.976 21 223.393
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:26.712 2.989 11 223.360
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:27.500 3.777 16 221.34