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Saudi Arabian GP: Ferrari's Leclerc fastest in first free practice

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Jeddah, March 25 (IANS) Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc started his campaign at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from where he left off in Bahrain as he emerged fastest in the first free practice here on Friday.

Leclerc, who won the season-opener in Bahrain, who got into action midway through the session at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, clocked 1m 30.772s on the closing stages on the soft compound tyres.

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Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who failed to score in Bahrain because of a fuel pressure issue that struck both Red Bull drivers, was second quickest — 0.116 seconds behind the leader, according to a report on the F1 website.

Valtteri Bottas was a very impressive third for Alfa Romeo, ahead of the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, the top four separated by just over three-tenths of a second.

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AlphaTauri duo Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda were an encouraging fifth and sixth respectively ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez (P7).

Esteban Ocon was the leading Alpine in eighth, with Lewis Hamilton – who hit the wall late in the session on the approach to Turn 1 – was the best-placed Mercedes-powered car in ninth, 1.6s off the pace.

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Fernando Alonso, whose Alpine team changed his internal combustion engine as a precaution after finding a suspected sealing issue, closed out the top 10.

McLaren showed more promise, having had a miserable time in Bahrain with Daniel Ricciardo 11th and Lando Norris – running a visor cam this weekend – 13th, the duo sandwiching the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.

The Williams duo of Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi were 17th and 18th respectively ahead Mick Schumacher in 19th. The other Haas of Kevin Magnussen failed to set a time, having suffered a hydraulic issue.

–IANS

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