The one-hour FP1 session at Barcelona took place in boiling temperatures and clear skies – just under 30°C air temperature and nearly 50°C track temperature, which continued to climb throughout the session.
After Mercedes Formula E driver, and 2021 world champion in the electric series, Nyck de Vries, had set the first-place benchmark time at 1m27.438s, Verstappen soon moved into the slot – deposing his fellow Dutchman after Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly had done likewise.
Verstappen's first time on a long first run on the hards came in at 1m23.163s and he worked that down to a 1m22.693s with two subsequent fliers either side of Leclerc briefly slotting ahead with a 1m22.820s also on the white-walled rubber.
After a trip to the pits to change his front wing, but not tyres, Verstappen continued to improve on the hards – setting a 1m22.143s and then 1m21.876s just before his 12-lap run came to an end and he pitted at the end of the session's opening 20 minutes.
That stood as the fastest time for the next 10 minutes, after which most drivers attempted their first flying laps on the softs.
Of the leaders, Sainz led the way on the red-walled rubber, which he duly took to the top of the times on a 1m19.907s.
Five minutes later, Verstappen posted then best times in the opening two sectors for his first run on the softs, but ended over 0.2s adrift of Sainz after losing time encountering traffic in the final sector.
Leclerc was the next of the 2022 frontrunners to set a time on the softs, running just after Verstappen, and setting a purple middle sector as he went quickest with a 1m19.828s – just 0.079s quicker than his teammate.
A lengthy lull in action followed before the pack returned for the final few minutes, completing race runs several seconds off the pace.
George Russell led the way for Mercedes in fourth with a 1m20.50s – the Silver Arrows cars, which have been heavily upgraded for this event, showing little porpoising effect during FP1.
The pair will visit the stewards after the session as a result of Hamilton clipping the Barcelona gravel as he passed Alonso touring slowly on the medium tyres just past the halfway point – the Alpine driver under investigation for appearing to impede the Mercedes as Hamilton completed his quickest lap of the session.
There were two other impeding incidents during the session – Valtteri Bottas running close to Verstappen through the chicane late in the third sector, which was not deemed worthy of a full investigation, and Juri Vips appearing to get in Russell's way through the long and uphill right-hander at the start of the final sector.
That incident will also be investigated after the session, with Russell complaining on his team radio that he almost "crashed into the back" of the Red Bull, which is being driven by Formula 2 driver Vips as one of Red Bull's two rookie FP1 slots for the season (as was the case for de Vries at Williams).
De Vries beat regular Williams racer Nicholas Latifi to 18th place before Alexander Albon returns for FP2.
Vips, in place of Sergio Perez for FP1, brought up the rear of the field, 4.310s off the pace having spent much of the session completing data-gathering exercises for Red Bull – his rear wing coated in flow-viz paint during the early stages.
The other non-regular driver taking part in FP1 was Robert Kubica in at Alfa Romeo, not taking up a rookie outing slot due to his previous F1 experience, with the Polish driver ending up 13th, ahead of Bottas, who finished 17th.
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Red Bull||28||1'20.164||0.336|
|8||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||Red Bull||23||1'21.422||1.594|
|10||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||Red Bull||28||1'21.814||1.986|
|12||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||Mercedes||23||1'21.920||2.092|
|13||Robert Kubica||Alfa Romeo||Ferrari||20||1'21.975||2.147|
|16||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||Mercedes||20||1'22.164||2.336|
|17||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||Ferrari||25||1'22.614||2.786|
|18||Nyck de Vries||Williams||Mercedes||28||1'22.920||3.092|
|20||Jüri Vips||Red Bull||Red Bull||23||1'24.138||4.310|
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