Zandvoort FP1: Hamilton and Alonso chase Verstappen

FP1 Zandvoort

After a four-week summer break, F1 is back at Zandvoort – home race for Max Verstappen, who is ever closer to winning his third title. The first free practice session once again saw the Dutchman go fastest. He was closely followed by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, with Sergio Perez “only” in fourth. Ferrari ran a different practice programme, avoiding the soft tyres.

Aston Martin works to recover, Mercedes works on the W14’s rear

There will be important changes in this second part of the season, but one team in particular will have everyone’s attention here in the Netherlands: Aston Martin.

After a promising start, the AMR23 lost performance and was overtaken by Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren. In the development phase, Alonso and Stroll’s car lost balance and did not find the performance that was seen on the simulator with the updates

Work began in Spa to try and regain their early-season form, where Aston were second-fastest. Here in Zandvoort, a completely new floor and diffuser make their debut. At Silverstone, work began to identify the AMR23’s main problem and correct the unexpected defects that appeared on the AMR23.

Still in England, but in Brackley, Mercedes is working to improve the W14 while waiting to make the right decisions to develop next year’s car fully.

The area James Allison’s engineers are focusing on is the rear, with modifications to the inlet of the sides and the side bulkhead of the floor. The beam wing has also been modified in camber and dimension to produce more load, to improve rear-end performance.

Ferrari does not present anything new, bringing here two different Beam Wing specifications: the one seen at Silverstone for testing and the more charged, more ideal one at the Zandvoort circuit.

Red Bull introduces a new beam wing, modified in the camber to obtain a greater contribution of local load, i.e. at the rear.

McLaren introduces a new specification, with a higher load, together with a rear wing revised in all its elements, even with a change to the endplates, which incorporates a solution that is gaining ground in the paddock, initially introduced by AlphaTauri. 

This features a mobile flap which terminates before reaching the edge of the endplate. This solution – for high load – should still increase the efficiency of the MCL60.

Important, albeit less relevant, are the innovations introduced by Haas. The American team brings a new front wing, associated with a modification to the nose. 

Perhaps most crucially, there is an all-new specification of ‘rear corner’ – once known as brake ducts – which the American team hopes will be able to lend a hand, especially in the race in terms of tire management. The hope is to better distribute heat and begin to cure some of the ailments of VF-23.

FP1: Verstappen fastest, but Aston Martin and Mercedes start strong – Ferrari further back

The news of the day, as far as Ferrari is concerned, is the debut of Robert Shwartzmann with the Ferrari SF-23 for the first of the two sessions dedicated, obligatorily by regulation, to rookies. 

The Shwartzman took Carlos Sainz’s place in free practice. First minutes for both Ferrari drivers on Hard tyres, to then stop in the pits and proceed with changes already planned before the session after these minutes are used as a test.

The Ferrari SF-23 in the Zandvoort pit lane, before FP1, with the beam wing seen at Silverstone

After an initial run with the Silverstone version beam wing, Ferrari replaced this element with a higher load version as well as the rear wing seen in Hungary, adapting the SF-23 to the demands of the Zandvoort circuit.

Important work also for Aston Martin and McLaren, who have to analyze the news. Sensors were also initially mounted on the AMR23 under the bottom, near the diffuser, to study the trend of the flows with the aerodynamic innovations.

This meant there was no rush early in the session for Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, as well as Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris – who only finished a few laps.

Lance Stroll was called to the pits for a suspected power unit problem, which will put an early end to his session.

At Red Bull, they focused on differentiated work: About half an hour from the end, Max Verstappen did a race simulation with a total of 13 laps – while Sergio Perez mounted the Soft tyre. The Mexican driver went fastest initially, with the Williams duo of Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant not far behind.

Nico Hulkenberg interrupted the session about 15 minutes from the end, losing the car in the last corner and touching the barriers with the front, getting stuck in the gravel and causing a red flag.

The action resumed 10 minutes from the end, with Max Verstappen among those to mount the soft tyre. The two Alpine, AlphaTauri and McLaren cars also used the soft – in addition to Fernando Alonso.

Ferrari, on the other hand, does not mount the Soft tyre, returning to the track with a Medium used with Charles Leclerc, while a new Medium for Shwartzmann for an attempt at a ‘fast lap’, while the Monegasque focused on race pace.

Max Verstappen quickly dropped below the 1.12 barrier and set a time of 1.11.852. Lewis Hamilton, with a tyre already used in the previous lap but interrupted due to a red flag, set a time 0.373 away from the Dutchman.

Russell was almost 1.5 seconds further, due to traffic in the last sector. A good lap for Fernando Alonso was just +0.278 from Verstappen’s best time. McLaren’s attempts were at a similar level to Williams, between fifth and ninth position, even if the times of Albon and Sargeant were set before the red flag.

FP1 Zandvoort

Ferrari decided not to mount the Soft tyre and continued with the work on the setup and study in this FP1, finishing with a long run with Leclerc and attempting to set a fast lap, again on Mediums, with Robert Shwartzmann.

Author: Paolo D’Alessandro

Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang