Saudi Arabian GP: Verstappen outpaces Hamilton in final practice

Red Bull's Max Verstappen has topped final free practice for Formula 1's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, holding off title rival Lewis Hamilton on the Jeddah Corniche street circuit.

Saudi Arabian GP: Verstappen outpaces Hamilton in final practice
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FP3 was held on a warm afternoon, rendering it not entirely representative for Saturday night qualifying, which is set to run in cooler conditions.

Still, the fast-improving track conditions on the brand new street circuit made the one-hour training run a valuable exercise after many drivers reported problems getting the most out of Pirelli's softest tyre compound on Friday.

Mercedes duo Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas joined the track early in the session, the Finn topping the early running with a 1m30.394s on hards.

Bottas was briefly demoted by Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo, but then Hamilton took the lead with a 1m29.605s, which he followed up with an innocuous spin.

Hamilton and Bottas found more time on the hardest compound to extend their gap atop the leaderboard, Hamilton particularly impressing with a 1m28.314s, which at the time put him one second clear.

That gap was gradually closed by the likes of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, McLaren's Lando Norris and Ferrari man Carlos Sainz, who all demoted Bottas to fifth.

Verstappen's first effort aboard the Red Bull put him outside the top five, but his second soft tyre effort was good for P2 three tenths behind title rival Hamilton.

Against a backdrop of the red sun setting over the Dead Sea, Verstappen set a new benchmark heading into the final half of the session, his 1m28.212s on softs beating Hamilton's time by one tenth.

Verstappen found another tenth to set a 1m28.105s as all runners switched to softs for the final 15 minutes.

AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda took third with 10 minutes to go but was ultimately demoted by Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull.

Tsunoda settled for up fourth ahead of teammate Gasly and Bottas following another strong showing by AlphaTauri.

Charles Leclerc took seventh after his Ferrari team managed to repair his car after his hard FP2 smash, followed by stablemate Sainz.

Esteban Ocon took ninth ahead of Norris and Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso.

Alfa Romeo duo Antonio Giovinazzi and Raikkonen settled for 12th and 13th, with the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo down in 14th after a low-key session.

Lance Stroll was 15th for Aston Martin ahead of Williams' George Russell, with their respective teammates Sebastian Vettel and Nicholas Latifi close behind.

Haas pairing Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin propped up the timesheets.

The session progressed without major incidents, although Mazepin narrowly avoided running into the back of a cruising Hamilton through one of the circuit's many unsighted kinks.

It was one of several close encounters as traffic continued to be a problem, foreshadowing what could be an edgy qualifying session.

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap Interval
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 20 1'28.100    
2 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 23 1'28.314 0.214 0.214
3 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 21 1'28.629 0.529 0.315
4 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 20 1'28.641 0.541 0.012
5 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 22 1'28.715 0.615 0.074
6 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 19 1'29.019 0.919 0.304
7 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 22 1'29.101 1.001 0.082
8 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 19 1'29.149 1.049 0.048
9 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 19 1'29.177 1.077 0.028
10 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 18 1'29.300 1.200 0.123
11 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine 21 1'29.418 1.318 0.118
12 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 20 1'29.590 1.490 0.172
13 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 24 1'29.689 1.589 0.099
14 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 19 1'29.717 1.617 0.028
15 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 14 1'30.030 1.930 0.313
16 United Kingdom George Russell Williams 17 1'30.034 1.934 0.004
17 Germany Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 15 1'30.296 2.196 0.262
18 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 17 1'30.366 2.266 0.070
19 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas 20 1'30.933 2.833 0.567
20 Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin Haas 23 1'30.979 2.879 0.046
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