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F1 Saudi Arabian GP: Verstappen tops final practice as Zhou suffers heavy crash

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped a truncated final practice for Formula 1’s 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – the session shortened by Zhou Guanyu’s big crash in his Sauber.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Shameem Fahath

Charles Leclerc finished second for Ferrari, with Sergio Perez third in the other RB20 and Carlos Sainz’s illness-replacement, Oliver Bearman, taking 10th in the second of the Scuderia’s machines.

Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas ventured out on track first, with plenty of attention already on Bearman – a crowd of cameras and photographers clustered in front of what is now his garage.

Bottas posted the initial benchmark at 1m31.307s, with Bearman soon out behind him and also running the medium tyres.

He initially lapped nearly two seconds off Bottas’s pace, with Hamilton then beating the pair with a 1m30.793s on the soft tyres approaching the 10-minute mark.

Just past this, with Bearman’s second flier bringing him closer to the pace, Bottas re-took first place with a 1m30.770s, before Bearman pipped that with a 1m30.277s.

Hamilton, however, had also carried on for a second flier on his softs and he took this back to the top spot with a 1m30.253s as the opening quarter concluded, with most of pack still in the pits.

This did not include George Russell in the other Mercedes, as he was already out – also on the softs – but running a lower-downforce rear wing package compared to Hamilton.

Oliver Bearman, Scuderia Ferrari, has a seat fit

Oliver Bearman, Scuderia Ferrari, has a seat fit

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Russell initially ran adrift of his team-mate and Bearman before he took the top spot with his second flier, which came in at 1m29.862s just before the 20-minute mark, after which Leclerc slotted the other Ferrari into second just 0.146s adrift on the medium tyres.

After this, the Red Bulls finally arrived in the fray, with Perez moving straight to the top of the times with a 1m29.562s on the soft tyres, with Verstappen’s first flier putting him second by 0.211s also on the red-walled rubber.

Approaching the end of FP3’s first half, Leclerc’s continued run on mediums took him to top spot as his second flying effort came in at 1m29.206s, then as the clock ticked over the 30-minute mark, Verstappen’s second push lap on the softs meant he forged ahead with a 1m28.893s and a new 0.313s gap at the head of the times.

After two more cooldown laps on his first set of softs, Verstappen went for a third time with 25 minutes remaining and bettered his own benchmark with a 1m28.412s and an increased gap to Leclerc at the head of the rest at this stage of 0.794s.

Shortly after this – when Verstappen had joined many other cars in the pits but with the Dutchman complaining he had hit “something” possibly a “plastic bottle” with his right front at Turn 1 – Alonso popped his Aston Martin into third behind Leclerc and ahead of Kevin Magnussen.

The lull in action then got extended when Zhou crashed hard at Turn 8 – having lost the rear of his Sauber in Turn 7 and spun off backwards, the rear and left-hand side of the car badly damaged in the impact Zhou was able to walk away from.

Zhou’s car was craned away within five minutes of his shunt, with 17 minutes of FP3 remaining, but the session only got going again with five minutes left.

The pack headed out en masse but as they crawled out of the pits on the softs, each of the 18 runners only got one flying lap.

Marshals remove the damaged car of Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44, from the circuit after a crash in FP3

Marshals remove the damaged car of Zhou Guanyu, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44, from the circuit after a crash in FP3

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Russell used his final flier to shoot up to second before he was deposed, first by Leclerc and then by Perez in ending up adrift of Verstappen’s leading time from much earlier.

As Lando Norris, Alonso, Lance Stroll, Oscar Piastri and Hamilton slotted into run behind Russell from fifth downwards, Verstappen completed his final flying lap last of the frontrunners.

For much of the lap he looked like he would improve the first-place benchmark, before Verstappen ended up losing time in the last sector and not bettering his personal best by 0.010s, which cemented his gap to Leclerc at 0.196s and 0.494s over Perez.

Bearman only got his softs run in that last-minute action – which was the case for Leclerc, Alonso and several others too – and he ended up 10th in the final FP3 order.

The late action only featured 18 runners because Logan Sargeant had damaged his FW44’s left-front trackrod when hitting the wall inside Turn 22 during the early running and he only completed two laps as a results, with no time set for the American.

F1 Saudi Arabian GP - FP3 report

Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Laps Time Interval km/h
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull 13


2 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari 16



0.196 250.839
3 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull 13



0.298 249.998
4 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes 17



0.058 249.835
5 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes 11



0.007 249.816
6 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes 14



0.067 249.628
7 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes 14



0.089 249.378
8 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 11



0.086 249.138
9 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes 19



0.055 248.985
10 United Kingdom O. Bearman Ferrari 38 Ferrari Ferrari 22



0.038 248.879
11 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari 12



0.179 248.381
12 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault 13



0.061 248.212
13 Japan Y. Tsunoda RB 22 RB Red Bull 18



0.026 248.140
14 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault 13



0.003 248.131
15 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari 11



0.100 247.855
16 Australia D. Ricciardo RB 3 RB Red Bull 15



0.065 247.675
17 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes 13



0.068 247.487
18 Finland V. Bottas Sauber 77 Sauber Ferrari 21



0.275 246.732
19 China Z. Guanyu Sauber 24 Sauber Ferrari 12



0.656 244.948
20 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes 2



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