Qatar GP: Verstappen leads Gasly, Bottas in Practice 1

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Max Verstappen made a strong start as he led the opening practice session at the Qatar Grand Prix on Friday.

As drivers got to grips with the Losail circuit, most for the first time, the Red Bull driver posted a 1m23.723s on soft tyres to finish four-tenths clear of Pierre Gasly, who was among the last drivers to try the red-striped compound.

Valtteri Bottas was within the same tenth in third for Mercedes, despite running wide in the high-speed Turn 14 which caught many out as they pushed the limits.

It was a tricky session for Lewis Hamilton as he finished three-quarters of a second slower in fourth, albeit taking it easy in the high-speed final sector.

Initially, the Briton reported a lack of power before having to pit for repairs after damaging the front wing on the kerbs.

And those kerbs were a talking point throughout the session with several drivers damaging the underside of the cars, particularly in Turn 15.

Some issues went further as Lando Norris and Lance Stroll both had technical issues after running too wide.

Mick Schumacher had the most significant off-track moment, sliding into the gravel at Turn 7 before continuing in his Haas.

Yuki Tsunoda backed up AlphaTauri and Honda's strong start in fifth ahead of the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc.

Sergio Perez is one of just two drivers with past Qatar experience, racing and winning in GP2 Asia in 2009, but he made a pretty slow start in eighth, over a second behind Verstappen.

Esteban Ocon was ninth with Norris completing the top 10 for McLaren ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo in P11.

With debris on track and the vibrations from the kerbs, Sebastian Vettel had to manage something loose in his cockpit en route to 12th, as Nicholas Latifi ran a strong 13th for Williams.

The two Alfa Romeos and George Russell followed ahead of Fernando Alonso in 17th, Schumacher in 18th and Stroll in front of Nikita Mazepin despite only doing 11 laps before a hydraulics issue.

Full lap times from the opening session at Losail can be seen below: