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Leclerc Heads Verstappen in Opening Saudi Practice

Leclerc Heads Verstappen in Opening Saudi Practice

Friday, 25 March, 2022 - 18:00
Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabia Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 25, 2022 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during a press conference. (Reuters)

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc set the pace ahead of Red Bull's world champion Max Verstappen in Friday's opening Formula One practice session for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Monegasque, who took victory ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz in last week's season-opening race in Bahrain, lapped the 6.1-km Jeddah Corniche track in one minute 30.772 seconds.

Verstappen, who was on course for second place in Bahrain before being sidelined by a fuel system problem three laps from the race's end, was 0.116 seconds adrift with Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas third. Sainz was fourth.

Reigning champions Mercedes, wrong-footed by the new rules in Bahrain, made another low-key start to the weekend with Lewis Hamilton ninth and George Russell 15th.

The once-dominant squad were running a revised rear wing design aimed at boosting their speed down the straights.

The session was briefly halted when a corner distance marker came loose.

McLaren's Lando Norris clipped the board, showering debris across the track.

Friday's opening hour of practice also allowed drivers to familiarize themselves with the changes to the Jeddah track, a challenging layout made up mainly of blind, high-speed sweeps and flat-out blasts along the city's Red Sea waterfront.

Organizers have made changes to give drivers a better line of sight around the corners after safety concerns last year.

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