Perez fastest as Mercedes falters in final practice

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez has ended the final hour of practice for the Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix fastest from Charles Leclerc.

A strong final sector left the Mexican almost 0.2s clear of the pack while Mercedes plummeted down the order after a promising Friday.

Lewis Hamilton was only 15th in the session and George Russell 17th, while Max Verstappen recovered from a tough opening day to be third fastest and lucky not to find the wall late in proceedings.

In desperate need of laps after a disastrous Friday, Verstappen was the first car on track with a set of medium compound tyres bolted on.

Valtteri Bottas too was out early after he sat out all of Practice 2 yesterday, his car fitted with a new turbocharger and MGU-H following his crash in opening practice.

It was a comparatively steady start, with Verstappen logging a 1:34.037s to open running, quickly bettered by Charles Leclerc with a 1:32.250s to top proceedings on the soft tyres.

The Red Bull driver improved next time around, a 1:32.447s leaving him 0.197s away from the lead Ferrari.

Temperatures were again hot, with the track at 50 degrees as the session got underway.

Air temperatures were also in the 30s once again, conditions which suited Mercedes on the opening day.

Both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton quickly appeared towards the top of the timesheets, the former rising to third after his opening lap and Hamilton fifth.

The duo had the medium compound tyres bolted on, Russell’s 1:32.335s some 0.9s down on Verstappen’s best of 1:31.355s.

A quarter of an hour into the session, Esteban Ocon made a mistake to draw the red flag in an incident similar to that by Carlos Sainz.

Replays showed the Frenchman lost the back end, making heavy impact with the bare concrete wall as he skated off the road.

He was taken to the medical centre as the force of the crash triggered the g-force meter, though was quickly cleared.

The stoppage occurred with Verstappen fastest from Leclerc, while Mick Schumacher sat third.

Running was halted for 11 minutes before cars headed back out, a traffic jam forming in anticipation at pit exit.

The bulk of the field headed out, including Verstappen and Bottas as they continued to make up for lost time.

Unsurprisingly, the pair were among the busiest as the session reached its halfway point.

Verstappen remained fastest; his best lap set prior to the red flag remaining the benchmark by 0.231s to Leclerc.

Conditions were tricky, the wind having picked up with a host of cars struggling for rear grip.

Lando Norris was fortunate enough not to clout the wall at Turn 16 as he entered the long back straight.

At Mercedes, both Hamilton and Russell struggled to get the power down out of Turn 17 and into 18, the rear tyres screaming enough.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, Leclerc headed out on a qualifying simulation run, pumping in a 1:30.981s.

It was only a 0.5s improvement over his earlier best set on the medium tyres, the hot track temperature seemingly proving too much for the tyres.

Russell and Hamilton were about a second off Leclerc’s time, the former on 1:31.924s to go 0.003s quicker than his team-mate.

Perez then went fastest, 1:30.699s from the Mexican as he completed his qualifying simulation.

Verstappen promptly went 0.05s quicker to reclaim top spot with 10 minutes remaining.

A surprise lap from Alex Albon saw the Williams driver climb to fourth best, though that quickly became fifth when Ricciardo recorded a 1:31.728s.

Lando Norris sat sixth with his qualifying run, a 1:31.856s from the McLaren driver.

It left the two Mercedes in the back end of the to 10, while Fernando Alonso showed strong pace with a 1:31.401s to go fourth best.

Vettel and Lance Stroll also showed promising speed for Aston Martin as they found themselves fourth and seventh respectively after their qualifying runs as the midfield proved tightly packed.

Times were dropping rapidly as the session worked towards its conclusion, Perez going 0.3s quicker that his team-mate with a 1:30.304.

At Mercedes, porpoising had returned in dramatic fashion, Hamilton having dropped to 14th and Russell 16th.

The double waved yellow flags were shown for Verstappen, the Dutchman skating through the chicane at Turns 14/15.

He’d clobbered the kerb entering the complex, standing on the brakes and stopping just short of the barrier.

In the final seconds of the session, Leclerc was on a final flying lap, though lost time in the middle sector.

Even still, he climbed to second best with a 1:30.498s, 0.194s down on Perez.

Verstappen ended the session third from Alonso, Vettel, Schumacher, Sainz, Kevin Magnussen, Albon, and Norris in the top 10.

Hamilton ended proceedings only 15th, two places better than Russell, the pair some 1.5s off the pace at the top of the timesheets.

Qualifying follows, getting underway at 06:00 AEST.

Results: Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix, Free Practice 3

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 20 1:30.304
2 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 23 1:30.498 +0.194s
3 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 20 1:30.649 +0.345s
4 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team 17 1:31.036 +0.732s
5 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin F1 Team 23 1:31.049 +0.745s
6 47 Mick Schumacher Haas F1 Team 18 1:31.050 +0.746s
7 55 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Ferrari 23 1:31.172 +0.868s
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 1:31.227 +0.923s
9 23 Alex Albon Williams Racing 14 1:31.501 +1.197s
10 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 18 1:31.594 +1.290s
11 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 23 1:31.659 +1.355s
12 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1 Team 21 1:31.665 +1.361s
13 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team 18 1:31.728 +1.424s
14 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Team 25 1:31.885 +1.581s
15 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 19 1:31.890 +1.586s
16 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 18 1:31.901 +1.597s
17 63 George Russell Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 18 1:31.924 +1.620s
18 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo F1 Team 16 1:32.051 +1.747s
19 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing 16 1:32.376 +2.072s
20 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team 3

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