Red Bull already have a commanding lead in the team standings, but it’s Aston Martin who are the best of the rest ahead of the 2023 Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix.
In Florida, the green light was on at the end of the pit lane and the first of the weekend’s three practice sessions was under way at the Miami International Autodrome. It was a scorching day in Miami so it was interesting to see which teams can cope with the high temperatures best.
Red Bull were debuting a custom one-off livery for this weekend, but the big patches of yellow paint on the bodywork were not part of it! That was flow-vis paint, which teams use to assess the aerodynamic performance of their cars, which meant Red Bull had new parts they were trying out this weekend. Scuderia Ferrari also brought a revised floor and some updates to the diffuser of the SF-23 single-seater.
A little off-track excursion for Max Verstappen early on, but he made his way back onto the track pretty swiftly and was okay to continue. It was not a good start to the session for George Russell: he was immediately complaining about serious vibrations on his Mercedes and asked for a set-up change: “Got vibration on the ramp. Can we make any change for the second run, or even now? Even if it takes half an hour. I’m really struggling with this steering mate. I’m not going to learn anything with this!” His engineer initially said Mercedes would not be able to change in this session but George Russell headed straight back in to the garage.
With 41 minutes to go in FP1, Charles Leclerc moved his Ferrari car up into second in the time sheet, seven tenths off Max Verstappen’s early pace. The Monegasque then promptly went deep into Turn One as the limits of the track were tested again, just as Alex Albon made a tremendous save to keep his car out of the wall.
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There was plenty of dust for the cars to clear in the Miami pit lane ahead of the rest of the weekend.
As mentioned, Ferrari introduced their first big upgrades of the season to Miami as they seek to close the gap at the front to Red Bull.
“It’s an important race for Ferrari. They have quite a sizeable upgrade in terms of a new floor and new diffuser,” explained Ted Kravitz – “With the new floor rules this year, everyone is still kind of adapting to that so for Ferrari to fly out between Baku and here a new floor and new diffuser, they’re hoping it’s as significant as they think it is. It should add a tenth or two.”
Midway through FP1, Haas gave their home crowd an early cheer as Nico Hulkenberg went fastest and Kevin Magnussen moved up into third. They were the only drivers to have completed a soft-tyre run at that stage but they could have their moment in the sun. A few moments later, Max Verstappen returned himself to the top of the timesheet with a 1:31.054 which was slightly quicker than the best time of last year’s FP1. The Dutchman also had a big moment through the first sector which cost him a bit of time.
Soon after, there was a huge crash for Nico Hulkenberg as he lost the grip coming out of turn three and ended up spinning backwards into a wall. That brought out the red flag with just over 25 minutes of the session remaining: “I lost it,” was Hulkenberg’s succinct message over the radio.
After a nine-minute delay, the green flag was waving again in Miami. It was a warm, sunny day in Miami for practice, but Red Bull boss Horner is expecting rain to be a factor at some point this weekend: “The biggest risk this weekend is perhaps the weather,” Christian Horner said – “Maybe Saturday or Sunday, it looks like one of the two events will be affected by rain.”
Max Verstappen improved his best time by over half a second as he set a 1:30.549, which put him eight tenths ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s earlier leading time. Team-mate Sergio Perez was a second off his team-mate in third, while Carlos Sainz improved to second-fastest with a lap that put him ahead of Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc, who was just on his out-lap. The yellow flag came out temporarily as Alex Albon got it wrong at one of the tighter corners of the track and ended up facing the wrong way momentarily.
With just over a minute left in the session and Hamilton set in the fastest lap with a 1:30.337. That was followed by team-mate George Russell going even faster with a 1:30.125. We therefore had a surprising one-two for Mercedes in Practice One, a first running in which clearly no team showed their true pace. Charles Leclerc finished in third place, followed by Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari SF-23 single-seater.
Practice One final standings
Here’s how the top 10 looks after the first practice session…
1) George Russell (Mercedes)
2) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3) Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
4) Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
5) Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
6) Pierre Gasly (Alpine)
7) Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin)
8) Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
9) Nico Hulkenberg (Haas)
10) Esteban Ocon (Alpine)