Leclerc tops final Dutch GP practice ahead of Russell and Verstappen

Leclerc tops final Dutch GP practice ahead of Russell and Verstappen
Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc steers is car during the second free practice session ahead of the Dutch Formula One Grand Prix at the Zandvoort circuit on September 2, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

ZANDVOORT, Netherlands — Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topped the times ahead of George Russell of Mercedes in Saturday’s third and final practice for the Dutch Grand Prix, the pair edging out local hero and runaway series leader Max Verstappen.اضافة اعلان

Red Bull’s world champion was third in a closely-matched session that raised the prospect of a tight and competitive qualifying session at the short and compact Zandvoort circuit.

Leclerc was quickest with a best lap in one minute and 11.632 seconds to outpace Russell by 0.066 seconds with Verstappen a tenth of a second behind.

Carlos Sainz was fourth in the second Ferrari, less than two-tenths off the 24-year-old Dutchman’s pace, ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes and Sergio Perez, who was sixth in the second Red Bull.

The top six were separated by only half a second.

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso was seventh for Alpine ahead of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin, the man he is set to replace next year, with Mick Schumacher ninth for Haas and Lando Norris 10th for McLaren.

It was a session with few notable incidents that saw the times improve throughout as the conditions encouraged greater speed.

On another perfect, dry late-summer’s day, with an air temperature of 23 degrees and the track at 29, Perez was the first man out followed by Gasly. For several minutes, they were the only cars on track.

Verstappen made a dramatic entrance after 12 minutes by topping the timesheets immediately in 1:12.309 with Sainz slotting in second behind him, six seconds adrift.

It was a statement lap from the Dutchman in front of his vast army of fans in the 105,000 crowd, packed into the tight and picturesque circuit in the North Sea sand dunes.

Despite complaining of lack of grip, Verstappen trimmed his time to 1:12.196 after 22 minutes with Leclerc in pursuit, 0.5sec adrift, and Hamilton third, six-tenths off the pace.

Ferrari responded with 19 minutes remaining when Sainz jumped to the top as the first man in the 1:11’s, two-tenths clear of Verstappen before team-mate Leclerc improved on that in 1:11.632.

The track was clearly improving and offering more grip and speed as Russell leapt to second, splitting the Ferraris and Hamilton taking fourth ahead of Verstappen, shortly before the champion returned to the fray.

His first lap lifted him to third, behind Leclerc and Russell, with Sainz fourth, this group separated by only three-tenths — indicating anyone from one of the leading three teams can mount a bid for pole position later on Saturday.

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