Oliver Bearman was quick out of the blocks in Jeddah, leading PREMA Racing teammate Frederik Vesti in the opening session of the weekend. ART Grand Prix’s Victor Martins was also proving the rookies were having no problem getting acquainted with the ultra-high-speed circuit, finishing Free Practice in third.
All the drivers were out on track early on rookie or not, eager to get their eye in around a slightly tweaked Jeddah Corniche Circuit. Martins claimed the top spot with 10 minutes gone for ART Grand Prix. His 1:46.411 was 0.4s quicker than anyone else in the early phase of Practice.
Track evolution is expected to play a big role across the weekend, and that was evident by the minute. The benchmark time continued to plummet as Martins lowered his best time to a 1:44.980 on his next flying lap.
Jehan Daruvala and Boschung took turns going fastest before, once again, Martins shot back to the top, lowering the best time to a 1:43.976. He extended the advantage over the rest to half a second on his next lap, beating his own best time by two-tenths.
Drivers were finding their feet quickly in the opening session of the weekend. Isack Hadjar, Zane Maloney and Kush Maini joined Martins inside the top 10 as fellow rookies, though more familiar faces were up there too. Dennis Hauger, Jack Doohan, Daruvala and Enzo Fittipaldi followed Martins inside the top five with 15 minutes remaining.
Bearman had an earlier lock-up that hampered his previous effort, but he went to the top on his next attempt on a 1:43.501. Martins looked set to improve his personal best but a moment of oversteer at the final corner left him two-tenths adrift of Bearman across the line.
Once again though, he regrouped and was about to return to the top of the times until a Red Flag was thrown just metres before he completed his lap. Amaury Cordeel suffered a spin out of Turn 13, ending up sideways on the track. With his car in need of recovering, the session wasn’t resumed with only four minutes remaining as the Red Flag came out.
Martins set a 1:43.161 that would have put him on top but, with the Red Flag cancelling his lap just before he could cross the line to finish it, Bearman topped Practice instead. The Briton’s 1:43.501 put him ahead of PREMA Racing teammate Frederik Vesti by a tenth, with Martins third.
Maini and Hauger completed the top five ahead of Clément Novalak, Doohan, Richard Verschoor, Ralph Boschung and Daruvala, the MP driver rounding out the top 10.
Formula 2 Qualifying is set to begin at 18:00 local time.