World Champion Max Verstappen led Charles Leclerc during an interrupted sole practice session in Azerbaijan, as Alpine suffered a major setback.
Formula 1 returned from its spring hiatus, caused by the cancellation and non-replacement of China’s round, with just one practice session in Baku ahead of qualifying and Saturday’s new Sprint Shootout.
READ MORE: F1 2023 Azerbaijan GP – FP1 Results
Verstappen, winner in Azerbaijan in 2022, set a time of 1:42.315s on Soft tyres during the closing stages to pip Ferrari driver Leclerc by just 0.037s.
Their respective team-mates Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz were third and fourth respectively.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was an encouraging fifth in the upgraded MCL60 while rookie Nyck de Vries was an eye-catching sixth for AlphaTauri.
Aston Martin finished with Lance Stroll seventh and Fernando Alonso eighth.
Alonso had a DRS issue during the session and emerged on track on Medium tyres for his final push run, when most of his rivals were on Softs.
Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF-23.
Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 4, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Friday 28th April 2023. Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan.
It was a troublesome session for Alpine, which had little running with its upgraded A523.
Pierre Gasly suffered a loss of hydraulic pressure in the first sector and attempted to recover the smoking A523 to the pit lane.
However he stopped on the outside of Turn 11 as the flames worsened and marshals eventually tended to the car, which had smoke pouring from the airbox.
Practice was red flagged with the recovery period accounting for almost a quarter of the session’s overall duration.
The situation deteriorated for Alpine as Esteban Ocon did not run for the remainder of the session while an issue at the rear of his car was investigated.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen suffered an issue – this time a loss of fuel pressure – at the same time as Gasly’s failure and was also left with limited running.
Mercedes had a low-key session as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell complained of brake issues during the early stages of running.
They shirked the Soft tyres and wound up only 11th and 17th respectively.
Yuki Tsunoda and Logan Sargeant also encountered setbacks during the session.
Tsunoda clipped the exit wall at Turn 3 and spun, causing damage to the right-rear wheel, though he was able to return slowly to the pit lane for repairs.
Sargeant suffered a front wing issue under braking for Turn 1 though was also able to recover his car to the pit lane for inspection.
Qualifying for Formula 1’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix is scheduled for 17:00 local time