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Russell posts fastest lap in opening Miami F1 practice

Mercedes driver George Russell races during the first practice session for the 2023 Miami Formula One Grand Prix. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP

George Russell of Mercedes posted the fastest lap time in the first practice for the Miami Grand Prix on Friday despite sitting out most of the session with a steering problem.

The first run on the track around the Hard Rock Stadium, which has been fully resurfaced since last year’s maiden event, was red-flagged with 26 minutes when Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg span into the wall at turn three.

Russell posted a time of 1:30.125 with his fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton second quickest, 0.212 behind, as Mercedes left the fastest laps for late in the session.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third, 0.324 off Russell’s pace, while defending world champion and current driver’s championship leader Max Verstappen, who had led for long stretches of the session, was fourth fastest.

Red Bull drivers have dominated the opening four races of the season with Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez claiming two victories each.

Mercedes will be encouraged by the strong showing in the opening session but will also know that the previous Grand Prixs have seen tight times in practice and qualifying before Red Bull’s race pace proved too much for rivals.

Nonethless, with increasing concern over the predictability of races this season, the sight of a Mercedes 1-2 two days before the Grand Prix should pique the interest of fans.

While Russell had to wait for a full steering rack change from his team before his late sprint to the top time, Verstappen appeared concerned by the track surface.

“It’s very hit and miss, one millimeter off and you have no grip,” he radioed to his team.

The red flag came after Hulkenberg lost control of his car entering turn three, spinning into the wall and leaving debris on the track from his front end.

The drivers will have another practice session later on Friday before Saturday’s qualifying.

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