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F1 – Pérez quickest for Red Bull in first practice for season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix 

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Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Pérez went quickest in first practice for the opening race of the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix, beating Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso by almost half a second. Defending champion Max Verstappen finished in third place in the other Red Bull car. 

Pérez staked his claim to P1 early in the session, posting a time of 1:35.069 before Alonso bypassed that as Verstappen joined the fray with a third-place time almost four tenths shy of his team-mate’s. 

Alonso held sway for the first 10 minutes of running before Pérez once again moved ahead with a lap of 1:34.343. 

But as the session headed for its half way point, the Mexican driver bolted on a set of soft tyres and posted a lap of 1:32.758 to put some distance between himself and his rivals. Verstappen followed soon after, but the defending champion was only to get to a time just over six tenths off the pace set by Pérez. 

McLaren’s Lando Norris then moved to third place on soft tyres, though the Briton was 1.4s down on Pérez's benchmark, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc made his way to fourth place. 

Both were demoted, though, when Alonso moved to soft tyres and he set a time of 1:33.196 to take P3 0.438s off Pérez.

With Leclerc fifth, sixth place went to Lance Stroll who was at the wheel of the Aston Martin AMR23 for the first time after suffering hand injuries in a pre-season bicycle accident. The Canadian worked his way into the session slowly but eventually made his way to 1:34.298 a tenth of a second ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen.

Zhou Guanyu was eighth quickest for Alfa Romeo with team-mate Valtteri Bottas just behind. 

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top 10 order with team-mate George Russell in P11 though either attempted a soft tyre run in the session 

New-season rookie Oscar Piastri was 12th for McLaren ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, while F1 returnee Nico Hülkenberg was 14th for Haas. Esteban Ocon took 15th place of Alpine ahead of full-season rookie Nyck de Vries of AlphaTauri and Pierre Gasly finished in P17 ahead of new Williams recruit Logan Sargeant, who beat team-mate Alex Albon. The timesheet was propped up by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. 

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 
1 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1:32.758 21 210.043
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:33.196 0.438 22 209.056
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1:33.375 0.617 21 208.655
4 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:34.165 1.407 21 206.904
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:34.257 1.499 17 206.702
6 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:34.298 1.540 17 206.613
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:34.402 1.644 20 206.385
8 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:34.575 1.817 18 206.007
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:34.689 1.931 20 205.759
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.917 2.159 13 205.265
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:34.966 2.208 20 205.159
12 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 1:34.997 2.239 24 205.092
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 1:35.015 2.257 20 205.053
14 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1:35.043 2.285 22 204.993
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:35.105 2.347 20 204.859
16 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri/Honda RBPT 1:35.402 2.644 25 204.222
17 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1:35.455 2.697 22 204.108
18 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 1:35.749 2.991 24 203.482
19 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1:36.018 3.260 15 202.911
20 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:36.072 3.314 21 202.797