Verstappen leads Gasly and Mercedes drivers in F1’s first session at Losail

2021 Qatar Grand Prix first practice

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Max Verstappen comfortably led Formula 1’s first ever session at the Losail International Circuit by over four-tenths of a second.

His closest rival was not either of the Mercedes drivers, but former team mate Pierre Gasly in his AlphaTauri. The pair of W12s came next, but Verstappen’s championship rival Lewis Hamilton was over three-quarters of a second slower having reported a lack of power and pitted briefly due to a car problem.

The Losail circuit was, as expected, dusty and dirty as practice began. The track temperature started at 42C and fell to 38C over the course of the session, as the peak of afternoon heat began to ebb.

Drivers ran wide over red and white kerbs, in the first half of the session, several scuffing the floors of their cars. Mick Schumacher had a curious off that saw him cut the inside of turn seven slightly and kick up sand onto the already dirty track – he repeated the error there later in the session, going deep into the gravel at turn seven and having to almost excavate his car, dropping a large amount of stones into kerbs and back onto the circuit as he gingerly made his way back to the pits during the final minutes of the session.

Several other drivers had trouble with kerbs, notably Lando Norris and Hamilton. Norris triggered an emergency switch on his car and some damage to the floor going over the green and white kerb on the outside of turn 14 and had to pit with a loss of power, however, he was able to return to the track in the final final four minutes of the session. Hamilton suffered a similar but less dramatic issue, after going wide at the same place and having to pit for what seemed to be front wing repairs, coming back out in the last three minutes of first practice.

Hamilton had also complained, early on in the session, of being “massively down on power” and been asking his team, during the hour of first practice, where he was losing out compared to Valtteri Bottas and Verstappen.

Verstappen was fastest all session, with the Mercedes cars seeming to take a relatively long time to warm up to the layout. Norris was second fastest for most of the first half an hour, before Bottas, Hamilton and Yuki Tsunoda passed him on drivers’ second runs. Gasly’s fast time was set in the final moments of the session.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was frustrated by traffic during his soft tyre runs, unable to set a representative lap until the last minutes of the session, when he beat team mate Charles Leclerc for sixth-fastest. Sergio Perez was the slowest Honda-powered driver, more than a second back from Verstappen, despite doing most of his running on soft tyres.

Esteban Ocon, ninth-fastest, was more than three quarters of a second quicker than team mate Fernando Alonso, who only managed 17th. The two McLarens took tenth and eleventh place in the timings, Norris ahead of Ricciardo, unable to improve on his initially good time due to pitting for repairs.

Lance Stroll suffered a hydraulic failure mid-session which saw him limp back to the pits and not return to the track, severely limiting his running. Meanwhile, team mate Sebastian Vettel repeatedly complained of things loose in the cockpit of his car, including by his left foot and an electrical cable that he had to hold down with his thigh, according to his radio messages.

2021 Qatar Grand Prix first practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
133Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’23.72322
210Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’24.1600.43728
377Valtteri BottasMercedes1’24.1940.47124
444Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’24.5090.78621
522Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’24.6480.92527
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’24.7130.99026
716Charles LeclercFerrari1’24.7901.06727
811Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’24.9151.19222
931Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’24.9721.24923
104Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’25.2151.49219
113Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’25.2911.56824
125Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’25.3281.60519
136Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’25.6881.96524
1499Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’25.7572.03423
157Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’25.8282.10525
1663George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’25.8712.14824
1714Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’25.9052.18221
1847Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’26.6992.97621
1918Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’26.7122.98911
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’27.5003.77716

First practice visual gaps

Max Verstappen – 1’23.723

+0.437 Pierre Gasly – 1’24.160

+0.471 Valtteri Bottas – 1’24.194

+0.786 Lewis Hamilton – 1’24.509

+0.925 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’24.648

+0.990 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’24.713

+1.067 Charles Leclerc – 1’24.790

+1.192 Sergio Perez – 1’24.915

+1.249 Esteban Ocon – 1’24.972

+1.492 Lando Norris – 1’25.215

+1.568 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’25.291

+1.605 Sebastian Vettel – 1’25.328

+1.965 Nicholas Latifi – 1’25.688

+2.034 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’25.757

+2.105 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’25.828

+2.148 George Russell – 1’25.871

+2.182 Fernando Alonso – 1’25.905

+2.976 Mick Schumacher – 1’26.699

+2.989 Lance Stroll – 1’26.712

+3.777 Nikita Mazepin – 1’27.500

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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31 comments on “Verstappen leads Gasly and Mercedes drivers in F1’s first session at Losail”

  1. There’s going to be a lot of laps deleted this weekend… It seems like it’s just a case of throwing the car into the corner and hoping to stay the right side of the line on exit.

    1. I guess in FP2 it will be about driving w/i the track. A bit like most laps from Hamilton, apart from that turn 14, which I think will remain an issue @petebaldwin, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see them all now mostly keep to the limits (esp. if the team tells them how much time swapping bits of the floor takes Lando!)

  2. The commentators sound like they are being held hostage. See if they blink sos during the second practice.

    1. Haha 😅. I didnt get that sense, but the thought is funny.

      1. I find the commentators to usually be a lot more relaxed and jovial during the practice sessions.

    2. 🤣🤣🤣
      Call Domenicali and make him set up a deal with the Taliban, then it might actually become reality 😉

  3. This track is hot. Fun to drive. But I think they need to police all turns for track limits really.

    1. @krichelle Not literally all turns, LOL.

    2. @krichelle
      Fully agree. I mean, Bottas was a full car’s width away from the kerb on his fastest lap. O.K., he didn’t improve on his fastest time in that sector, but it still looked ridiculous.

  4. Mercedes sandbagging as usual. Fp1 is irrelevant.

    1. It’s usually actually Red Bull who are sandbagging in FP1 and FP2. Fuel and tyre corrected by the official F1 site they pretty much always come out looking better than they do based on those raw timing sheets.

    2. Jelle van der Meer (@)
      19th November 2021, 11:51

      Yeah Lewis reported lack of engine power, guess he noticed driving with a normal older engine, not his warp speed engine he had in Brazil.

      No worries for Lewis he gets that warp speed engine again for qualifying, unless Red Bull found something it should be an easy win for Lewis.

      1. Absolutely. Tommorow pole for Hamilton with his prepped high power engine. Afterwards they say they didn’t expected this result blabla…It would be a massive shock if any other than Hamilton gets pole.

      2. So heads hamilton loses tails verstappen wins.

    3. Perez nowhere to be found again. Mercedes sandbagging again. I sure hope Newey gets it right next year.

      1. Perez was on other tyres for the most of time and he needs more time to HIS setup.

    4. Lewis had his old engine in his car, also he got lots of damage of the curbs as his frontwing broke.
      I must say a LOT of cars had curbs problems and got lots of damage.

    5. LOL! Love the way Lewis tries to act surprised that his old engine might be slower than the one he had last week

  5. Go Lewis go

  6. A decently flowing circuit.

  7. Solid start for Max, although this definitely wasn’t the most representative session this weekend. Gasly in 2nd place just 0.4 behind and in front of both Mercs.
    Seems like Mercedes was running in an conservative engine mode, because they lost most of their time in S1 & S3, while they were 0.1 quicker through S2. Also Bottas’ little long run towards the end of the session looked quicker than Max’s, both on the Softs.
    Alpha Tauri looked really good, but that might change in the afternoon or tomorrow, because Ferrari and McLaren might just have set up their cars for the cooler conditions under the floodlights or were running more fuel and less powerful engine modes.
    The laps of the Ferraris were quite interesting, because they set their quickest times on their final laps on the Softs (the tyre must have had at least 15 laps on them), while others (Verstappen and the Alpha Tauris) set theirs on the first or second lap.
    McLaren looked very quick out of the box with Norris, but then somehow failed to improve, despite the track evolution. Even Norris’ aborted lap didn’t look anything special and would’ve only brought him to the level of the Ferraris and Tsunoda. It’ll be interesting to see how they perform compared to Ferrari and Alpha Tauri this weekend. Could be a very close fight between all three teams.

  8. I’m of 2 minds with this track because while on the one hand the actual layout seems quite fun to drive with these cars but on the other actually watching them driving around it isn’t especially fun because of how flat & featureless it is & how bland it all is & how little overall character or atmosphere the venue has.

    And then you have the track limits issue & I know they will start watching that more closely over the weekend & deleting times but just knowing how at basically every corner they can fly off without really losing anything just takes away that feeling that they are really been challenged which in turn takes something away from the overall visual spectacle.

    It’s essentially to me the definition of everything I don’t like with a lot of the more modern venues, Especially the one’s in that part of the world which don’t tend to have much of an atmosphere.

    1. Interesting comment. It strikes me as Mugello/Portimao without the undulation.

      1. @hahostolze I get the comparisons to Mugello/Portimao in terms of the speed/flow but again for me it’s just lacking something that gives it the same sort of visual spectacle, That ‘wow’ factor & which makes watching as cars are lapping it so much fun.

        The problem with that when it comes to the racing is that if the race isn’t especially exciting or if you just have periods of the race where not a lot is going on it just makes the race seem even worse because it’s lacking that sort of visual spectacle that can help make it seem a bit more fun. And when you have the slower pace in races with the car/tyre management that can make it even worse again because of how far off the limit they are which also removes a lot of the possibility for mistakes which is again a bigger issue given how there isn’t much of a punishment for going off at most corners which again takes away a bit of that feeling that they are been challenged.

        1. @steifmeister
          The visual spectacle is missing because of the desert geography of the area. There’s nothing in the horizon past the circuit facilities. But the track itself isn’t that bad, mugello/portimao without the elevation changes indeed.

          I’ll also add that a boring race will further highlight the lack of a visual spectacle because the viewers’ attention won’t be on the actual racing

    2. I have to agree. I can imagine it’s rewarding to drive, but it was so dull to watch – it’s like a giant Scalextric track. Even the Sky commentators couldn’t work out which corners were which, and they’ve been researching. I hope it improves when we get to the competitive sessions.

    3. @stefmeister I agree. It’s another of the more modern tracks that is very similar to all of the other more modern tracks that has no character & Which isn’t ‘fun’ to watch & would be quickly forgotten if it never holds another f1 race.

      Just another example of quantity rather than quality when it comes to the Liberty F1 Schedule.

  9. Well now. That looks like a fun and challenging track. Lot of traffic issues expected for Q1/Q2 and the race, maybe also track limits. Field looks close. We’ll see what the cooling temperatures at night do.

  10. Interesting track, only if it had gradient and simply not flat, love the fact that some areas have gravel.

  11. Circuit may not be too bad but overall its quite a dull venue to be honest which as @stefmeister says above just doesn’t provide much of a fun spectacle when viewing on TV. It’s just like most of the other similarly dull more modern venues which are just as flat, featureless & boring to watch as one another.

    If they were that desperate to insist on keeping 22 races I just wish they could have picked a better circuit which actually had character, an atmosphere & was thrilling to watch.

    Such a shame that such a good championship fight is going to end in a part of the world where races have zero atmosphere which leaves things to fall very flat indeed. I miss the days of the season ending with the run of classic tracks who’s character & atmosphere helps build & create excitement rather than taking it all away.

  12. Suited for bikes. 100%.

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