Fernando Alonso led the pack out of the pits with a large aerodynamic-load measuring device fitted to the front of his Aston Martin and its new front wing, but it was George Russell who initially set the first-place benchmark at 1m30.214s.

This was, however, almost 10s off the pace and Russell was quickly shuffled back during the early run – where both Mercedes drivers complained about long brake pedals and the circuit surface gained grip as it cleaned up and had rubber laid down upon it.

The top spot changed hands throughout the opening third of the one-hour session, where only Verstappen, Perez and Leclerc ran the softs from the off, with the rest on mediums.

Perez and Leclerc exchanged quickest times on the red-walled rubber, with the former running an unbroken initial stint, while the latter joined Verstappen in making a trip to the pits for quick adjustments.

Leclerc took his first set of softs back to the top spot on a 1m19.110s at the 15-minute mark, just before Verstappen beat that with a 1m18.670s and a lull in action then followed.

The most notable moments in the next phase were Yuki Tsunoda putting his medium-shod RB in between the two early leaders and Alonso losing the rear of his car through the Turn 10 high-speed right and skating across the exit gravel at high-speed before returning to the pits.

Just before the halfway point, with most of the cars still in the pits during the lull, Norris moved into first place with McLaren’s first run on the C5 softs, which were barely used by any team during Bahrain pre-season testing, on a 1m18 .564s.

As the pack headed out in dribs and drabs through the beginning of the session’s second half, the majority ran softs and were able to edge ahead of the initial frontrunners.

This including Lance Stroll, who moved ahead of Verstappen – the Red Bull having headed back out at this stage on the same set of softs and not going any quicker – and Tsunoda again, by this stage running the softs.

As the final third kicked off, Leclerc slotted in a personal best on the second flier of his second set of softs to sit just 0.035s behind Norris, just before the session was suspended by Albon’s big crash.

The Williams driver’s FW44 snapped violently right after he ran hard over the Turn 7 inside kerb, which pitched him rapidly into the wall and then bouncing back across the track to hit the other wall and smashing both sides of the car.

This showered debris over a long section of this high-speed blast and the session did not resume until just nine minutes remained, once the pieces had been gathered and the Williams removed – Albon having been quickly collected by the medical car but having declared himself “ okay”.

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

All the cars headed back from the final run to the flag, with most staying on used softs that they struggled to warm in the relatively cool Melbourne conditions.

This led to a series of offs from high-profile drivers – Lewis Hamilton at Turn 1 on his first softs flier of the session, Verstappen at the exit of Turn 10 when he was on track to topple Norris, and Perez at the penultimate corner just as he was about to set a personal best.

Verstappen had enough time to go for a final flier in the last minute, where he jumped to second and 0.018s off Norris – but without setting a personal best.

Russell, who had lost his first softs run saving a massive oversteer snap and subsequent off at Turns 9/10 just before the red flag, did likewise and slotted into third shortly after the checked flag fell.

But the general lack of late personal bests from the rest set the following order at Leclerc in fourth ahead of Tsunoda, Perez, Stroll, Carlos Sainz and Hamilton, who did finally get a softs flier in at the end of the session.

Home heroes Oscar Piastri and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out and just missed the top 10 respectively in the 10th and 11th, while Alonso ended up only 18th having missed most of the middle phase of the action when the floor on his Aston was replaced following his early off .

F1 Australian GP – FP1 results:


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