Formula 1

2024 Australian Grand Prix – What Happened on Friday at Albert Park?

3 Mins read
Credit: Simon Galloway / LAT Images

The opening two free practice sessions took place on Friday around the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne as the Australian Grand Prix weekend of the 2024 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season commenced with Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc setting the pace.

However, there was drama for Williams Racing as Alexander Albon crashed heavily, which destroyed his chassis significantly that the team were forced to make a difficult decision to field only one car for the rest of the weekend, with Logan Sargeant missing out.

Oracle Red Bull Racing go into the weekend having finished first and second in both the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but based on what happened on Friday, Australia might present them a more difficult weekend going for the triple.

Free Practice One – Norris Fastest, Albon Crashes

McLaren F1 Team’s Norris set the pace in the opening session, his lap of 1:18.564 just 0.018 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while the top six were separated by less than a tenth of a second. 

Verstappen, who is looking to equal his record of ten consecutive race victories this weekend, was only 0.015 seconds clear of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s George Russell, with Scuderia Ferrari’s Leclerc a further 0.002 seconds back.

Visa CashApp RB’s Yuki Tsunoda was an impressive fifth, just ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Aston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team’s Lance Stroll, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. made a welcome return to the cockpit after being forced out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with appendicitis, the Spaniard ending the session eighth quickest.

The top ten was rounded out by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, while the second Australian in the field, RB’s Daniel Ricciardo, was eleventh, just over seven-tenths off the pace.

Twelfth overall was Williams’ Albon, but the Thai driver ended his session and his day with a big crash after hitting the kerbs at turn seven and hitting the wall on one side of the track and then the other.  He was able to exit the car without any issues, but the car was a write-off.

POS.NO.DRIVERNAT.TEAMTIME
14Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1:18.564
21Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing1:18.582
363George RussellGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:18.597
416Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:18.599
522Yuki TsunodaJPNVisa CashApp RB1:18.621
611Sergio PerezMEXOracle Red Bull Racing1:18.642
718Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team1:18.667
855Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPScuderia Ferrari1:18.686
944Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:18.771
1081Oscar PiastriAUSMcLaren F1 Team1:18.918
113Daniel RicciardoAUSVisa CashApp RB1:19.274
1223Alexander AlbonTHAWilliams Racing1:19.443
1320Kevin MagnussenDENMoneyGram Haas F1 Team1:19.489
142Logan SargeantUSAWilliams Racing1:19.519
1531Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1:19.561
1627Nico HülkenbergGERMoneyGram Haas F1 Team1:19.604
1710Pierre GaslyFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1:19.622
1814Fernando AlonsoESPAston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team1:19.716
1924Zhou GuanyuCHNKick Sauber F1 Team1:19.989
2077Valtteri BottasFINKick Sauber F1 Team1:20.014
Lando Norris was fastest in first practice – Credit: Simon Galloway / LAT Images

Free Practice Two – Leclerc Paces the Field

The pace quickened up in the second session on Friday afternoon, and it was Ferrari’s Leclerc who took his turn at the top, his lap of 1:17.277 almost four tenths of a second ahead of Verstappen.

Verstappen was a Red Bull in a Ferrari sandwich as Sainz improved as well to third, while Aston Martin enjoyed a positive session, with Stroll fourth just ahead of team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Russell was sixth in the leading Mercedes, but on the other half of the garage it was a very different story as Hamilton struggled for pace and performance, the seven-time World Champion ending only eighteenth fastest.

Piastri was the leading McLaren in seventh, two places but only 0.078 seconds clear of team-mate Norris, with Perez in between the two in eighth.  The top ten was rounded out by Tsunoda, who enjoyed another positive session, while Zhou Guanyu gave the Kick Sauber F1 Team some hope of a good weekend in eleventh.

Only nineteen cars took to the track as Albon’s car was too heavily damaged from his first practice smash, with team-mate Sargeant ending the day thirteenth, just behind RB’s Ricciardo.

POS.NO.DRIVERNAT.TEAMTIME
116Charles LeclercMONScuderia Ferrari1:17.277
21Max VerstappenNEDOracle Red Bull Racing1:17.658
355Carlos Sainz Jr.ESPScuderia Ferrari1:17.707
418Lance StrollCANAston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team1:17.822
514Fernando AlonsoESPAston Martin Aramco Formula 1 Team1:17.912
663George RussellGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:17.951
781Oscar PiastriAUSMcLaren F1 Team1:18.077
811Sergio PerezMEXOracle Red Bull Racing1:18.090
94Lando NorrisGBRMcLaren F1 Team1:18.155
1022Yuki TsunodaJPNVisa CashApp RB1:18.188
1124Zhou GuanyuCHNKick Sauber F1 Team1:18.421
123Daniel RicciardoAUSVisa CashApp RB1:18.534
132Logan SargeantUSAWilliams Racing1:18.578
1477Valtteri BottasFINKick Sauber F1 Team1:18.585
1510Pierre GaslyFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1:18.691
1627Nico HülkenbergGERMoneyGram Haas F1 Team1:18.702
1731Esteban OconFRABWT Alpine F1 Team1:18.705
1844Lewis HamiltonGBRMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1:18.834
1920Kevin MagnussenDENMoneyGram Haas F1 Team1:19.275
2023Alexander AlbonTHAWilliams RacingNo Time

After the session, Williams opted to withdraw Sargeant from the rest of the weekend to allow Albon to drive, with the thought behind it that the Thai driver will give them the best opportunity to score points.

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