Verstappen stamps his authority on final practice

Max Verstappen was fastest in final practice

Max Verstappen was fastest in final practice

Max Verstappen has ended final practice for the Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix more than half a second clear of the pack.

The Dutchman continued his strong Friday form, which saw him top both sessions, with Sergio Perez again next best to make for another Red Bull one-two.

Aston Martin was next best with Fernando Alonso third from Lance Stroll, while Oscar Piastri showed well to finish just 0.008s slower than Lando Norris to end the session eighth.

Skies were unusually cloudy as the session began though temperatures remained much the same as they’d been in Free Practice 1 on Friday.

The track remained silent as the pit exit opened, several drivers not even in the garage let alone strapped into their car.

Aston Martin was first out with both Alonso and Stroll heading taking to the circuit on medium compound tyres.

The pair completed two installation laps, twice heading out and immediately back in.

At Scuderia AlphaTauri, a power unit issue for Nyck de Vries meant he took no part in the session.

After 10 minutes, Piastri and Norris headed out, with Nico Hulkenberg not far behind.

Piastri was the first to record a timed lap, mustering a 1:32.531s.

That triggered a host of others to begin their sessions, Pierre Gasly quickly lowered the benchmark to 1:30.718s.

Both Mercedes drivers then went fastest, George Russell with 1:30.476s followed by Lewis Hamilton with a time just 0.016s slower.

After 19 minutes, Verstappen claimed top spot with a 1:29.882s using a set of new hard tyres.

Perez then recorded a 1:29.417s on a new soft compound tyre to go fastest.

A moment for Esteban Ocon saw the Frenchman mount the kerb at Turn 18.

The Alpine wiggled as it lost traction with Ocon catching the snap to avoid what would have been a mammoth shunt.

With 15 minutes remaining, Verstappen crossed the line to log a 1:28.756s to move 0.371s clear of team-mate Perez.

It signalled the start of qualifying simulations, with Verstappen improving to 1:28.660s on the same set of soft rubber.

Behind the two Red Bulls were the Aston Martin pair of Alonso on a 1:29.483s followed by Stroll with a 1:29.509s.

Hamilton sat fifth ahead of the two McLaren drivers, Norris just 0.008s clear of Piastri.

Charles Leclerc’s flying lap in the final three minutes netted only 10th fastest, 1.4s off the pace, becoming 11th when Carlos Sainz when 0.05s faster seconds later.

It suggested the engine mode had been turned down on the two scarlet cars both of whom remained on track for a final push lap as the chequered flag waved.

Leclerc improved on his previous effort in all three sectors to rise to sixth best, though still 1.1s away from Verstappen.

Sainz faced more traffic in his lap, dropping time in the middle of the lap before a slide in the last corner netted him a 1:29.761s to end the session 10th.

Qualifying follows, beginning at 18:00 local time (04:00 AEDT).

Results: Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Free Practice 3

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 20 1:28.485
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull 15 1:29.098 0.613
3 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 21 1:29.483 0.998
4 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 21 1:29.509 1.024
5 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 18 1:29.568 1.083
6 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 16 1:29.588 1.103
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren 18 1:29.690 1.205
8 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren 23 1:29.698 1.213
9 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 19 1:29.701 1.216
10 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 16 1:29.761 1.276
11 63 George Russell Mercedes 19 1:29.811 1.326
12 24 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Sauber 21 1:29.917 1.432
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 19 1:29.933 1.448
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine 19 1:29.953 1.468
15 23 Alex Albon Williams 18 1:29.983 1.498
16 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 18 1:30.035 1.550
17 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 15 1:30.131 1.646
18 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Sauber 20 1:30.317 1.832
19 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 20 1:30.797 2.312
20 21 Nyck de Vries Scuderia AlphaTauri 0 0:00.000 #########

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