Australian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen and Alex Albon damage cars in practice as Ferrari show pace

Australian Grand Prix: Max Verstappen and Alex Albon damage cars in practice as Ferrari show pace

Chaos off the track and calm on it has been the theme for Max Verstappen and Red Bull in the early part of the 2024 F1 season.

But the three-time world champion, seemingly blemish free to date this season, was one of a series of drivers to come off the track in the opening day of practice at the Australian Open.

Verstappen lost control of the RB20 at turn 10 in the opening of two practice sessions on Friday and damaged the floor of his car in the process, leading to a 23-minute delay in him making an appearance in session two as his mechanics undertook repairs.

Alex Albon had the biggest crash of the day, losing control on the exit of turn six and eventually hitting the wall at turn eight leading to a red flag for 10 minutes.

While the Williams driver walked away from the car unhurt, it caused extensive damage leaving the team with the prospect of running just one car for the rest of the weekend.

Williams admitted in the aftermath that they did not have a spare chassis but that, if mechanics could not repair it, they might give Albon the required chassis from Logan Sargeant’s Williams.

Williams team principal James Vowles said: “It was a fairly big accident. The engine is damaged, the gearbox is split in two, and the chassis is damaged. It’s the worst you could have ever had. We do not have a third chassis here. So, now it’s just whether we can repair this one.”

Fernando Alonso, like Verstappen, had an off at turn 10 which likewise impacted his car’s floor. George Russell and Valtteri Bottas also left the track briefly but without doing any damage to their respective cars.

In the opening session, Lando Norris clocked the quickest time just 0.018seconds clear of Verstappen, who again looks the car to beat in Melbourne.

Verstappen was again second quickest in session two as Charles Leclerc topped the times.

Leclerc was rejoined in the other Ferrari by Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard back after Oliver Bearman deputised for him at the preceding races after he underwent surgery to have his appendix removed.

Lewis Hamilton had a day of practice to forget as he struggled to match the pace of teammate George Russell to finish ninth and then ended up a lowly 18th in session two.

Despite his apparent struggles, Hamilton was quick to praise the car. He said: “I think we have an amazing car, there’s a lot of potential in it and I think we just haven’t maximised it at the moment. We’re obviously not happy with the performance at those first couple of races.”