Miami Grand Prix: George Russell leads Mercedes one-two in opening practice

Formula 1
Yuki Tsnuoda

George Russell led Lewis Hamilton to a Mercedes one-two in first practice at the Miami Grand Prix with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen down in fourth place.

The Mercedes drivers benefited from runs late in the session to leap ahead of Verstappen, who was also pipped by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.

Russell beat Hamilton by 0.212 seconds and was 0.424secs up on Verstappen.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, six points behind Verstappen in the championship, was down in 11th place.

Nico Hulkenberg caused a red-flag period when he crashed at Turn Three in his Haas. Alpha Tauri’s Nyck de Vries also had an accident early on that terminated his session.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fifth fastest, ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.

For Russell, it was an impressive recovery after losing about half the session because of a steering problem.

The Briton reported on the radio at the very start of the session that he was struggling with vibrations and that he had to pit because he was unable to learn anything with the car behaving in that way.

He returned to the track later in the session and benefited from the best conditions when he set his fastest time right at the end of the hour, straight after Hamilton had jumped to the top of the times.

“The car has some goodness, it is just very tricky to unlock it,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“When the drivers have confidence, they can go quick. It is on a razor’s edge. This morning we seemed to be in a sweet spot. I don’t think we can extrapolate from this. We ran later than everybody else but at least it looked more encouraging than Baku.”

Leclerc also jumped ahead of Verstappen in the closing stages after the Dutchman had set the pace earlier on his run on the soft tyres.

The session was interrupted for nine minutes following Hulkenberg’s accident, when the German lost control of his Haas through the quick Turn Three and spun sideways into the barriers.

The other driver to have an accident was De Vries, who continued his difficult debut year.

The Dutchman, who had a torrid time in Baku last weekend with a series of accidents, spun and tapped the wall early in the session and missed the rest of the hour as repairs were made.

On Thursday, Perez had expressed his confidence that he could maintain his challenge to Verstappen all year, after sharing the four wins equally with his team-mate so far in 2023.

But the Mexican’s first run on the soft tyres was interrupted by the red flag and although he returned to the track after the session was restarted, he was a long way off the pace.

Listen to the Miami Grand Prix preview show on BBC Radio 5 Live on Friday, 5 May at 21:00 BST.

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