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Practice report
Formula 1 United States GP

F1 United States GP: Verstappen beats Leclerc to top spot in final practice

Max Verstappen edged Charles Leclerc for the top spot in FP3 at Formula 1’s 2022 Grand Prix, with the Ferrari now running fresh engine parts and facing a grid drop.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

After FP2 had been largely dedicated to Pirelli’s 2023 tyre testing, the final one-hour session of practice meant the teams have more race-data-gathering work than usual to crack through beyond the final set-up tweaks and qualifying simulation efforts.

Here Ferrari faced another problem, as an issue aboard Leclerc’s car meant only Carlos Sainz completed high-fuel running for the Scuderia – although Verstappen was the only Red Bull runner to do likewise as Sergio Perez concentrated on flying efforts throughout FP3.

Just over half the field headed out in the opening minutes – led by Alfa Romeo pair Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas.

Zhou duly set the first-place benchmark at 1m39.735s, which Bottas immediately beat with a 1m39.042s, the pair running the soft tyres from the off.

They were quickly usurped by the first fliers from the frontrunners – Sainz coming in next on the mediums and going quickest with a 1m38.591s.

Then came Perez, who jumped ahead with a big gain of 0.978s on the red-walled rubber, before Leclerc seized first place with his opening effort of 1m37.471s using the softs.

Verstappen was on that rubber too, as was Perez, with the world champion slotting in just behind Leclerc 0.065s adrift.

After a trip to the pits, the four Ferrari and Red Bull drivers went for a second qualifying simulation effort – with Sainz still alone in running the mediums.

Leclerc improved the first place benchmark to 1m37.083s before Verstappen, following closely behind, forged ahead on a 1m36.706s, with Perez staying third despite setting a personal best with his second flying lap attempt.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Now running slightly off to his team-mate and Red Bull rivals, Sainz ended the opening 15-minutes by slotting into second behind Verstappen 0.188s slower with second go on the slower medium tyres.

At this stage the top four were followed by Alpine pair Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, with Lewis Hamilton leading George Russell next up for Mercedes.

While the Red Bull drivers stayed in the pits after two initial runs on the softs, Leclerc went again and jumped up to second just before the 20-minute mark had been reached – closing to 0.059s behind Verstappen with a purple final sector.

After he had returned to the pits, the two Red Bulls headed back out on different programmes – Verstappen completing a high-fuel, race-data-gathering run, with Perez getting a third qualifying simulation effort.

He used that extra run on the softs to go back to first on a 1m36.578s, which came at the expense of Hamilton who had seconds earlier just past the 25-minute mark gone quickest on a 1m36.688s before he was shuffled back to 0.110s back in second.

While Sainz joined Verstappen in high-fuel lapping in the next phase of the session, Perez completed two slow cooldown laps on his softs before trying another fourth flier.

But after setting a series of purple mini-sectors early in sector one he lost time and eventually pitted to abandon the lap, confirming Leclerc’s earlier suggestion on Ferrari’s team radio that the softs are “only there for one lap” around the high-energy Austin layout.

After a lull in action just past the halfway point, during which Ferrari revealed in a radio message to Sainz that Leclerc had a problem that was preventing him completing a corresponding high-fuel run on the softs, the Mercedes pair had to abandon fliers on the softs after moments at Turns 1 and 12 respectively.

Russell saved a massive oversteer snap at the opening turn, while Hamilton’s issue was understeer, after which he decided to back off.

After touring back around Russell went again and jumped from ninth to sixth to kick off the session’s final third, while Hamilton completed an extra slow cooldown lap after his understeer moment before mounting his next effort.

He blasted to purple first sector, but a small lock up Turn 12 at the end of the long back straight dropped him back and then a wild off-track moment over the kerbs coming out of the downhill penultimate corner meant he again opted to abandon.

As the final 15 minutes began, the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers reappeared for a final set of qualifying efforts.

Both Verstappen and Leclerc abandoned their first laps on their latest set of softs – the former after sliding deep and briefly going off at Turn 1.

After touring back to start again, Verstappen finally ended Perez’s long reign at the head of the times with a 1m36.223s despite the Dutchman having to catch a big sideways snap right as he put the power down out of the final corner to start his flier.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

That was where Leclerc came undone at the end of his latest flying effort – the Ferrari driver going from a purple first sector to end up second 0.010s adrift after having to catch an oversteer slide out of the final corner having done likewise in the penultimate corner too.

After this, Sainz jumped up to third after finally completing a softs flier, with Hamilton briefly getting ahead of Perez in fourth before the Mexican driver moved back ahead with his final lap in the dying moments.

Here, Leclerc stole back in front of Verstappen with a 1m36.145s - undoing his earlier claim regarding the softs durability - although perhaps with less fuel onboard at this stage so close to qualifying.

Indeed, after his own cooldown tour, Verstappen went for one more effort in the closing minute and blitzed to the fastest times in all three sectors and so topping FP3 with a 1m35.835s that put him 0.320s clear of Leclerc and Sainz 0.446s back.

Behind Perez and Hamilton came Alonso, who had narrow escape coming across the second Red Bull at the start of the Esses on his final lap, for which the slow-moving Perez apologised on his team radio.

Russell finished seventh ahead of Aston Martin pair Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll, with Pierre Gasly 10th for AlphaTauri.

Daniel Ricciardo needed McLaren to solve a brake problem it could not spot on its data on his way to 15th, with Mick Schumacher 19th after missing much of the session due to a transmission problem that occurred aboard his Haas in the early laps.

Haas initially believed the fix would 15 minutes, but Schumacher could not get back out and finally set a timed lap until the session was approaching its final 10 minutes.

That was still better than the running Zhou ultimately got, as he was left with just three laps on the board due to an unspecified problem that confined him to the Alfa garage after the installation laps.

F1 United States Grand Prix - FP3 results

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap Interval
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 22 1'35.825    
2 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 18 1'36.145 0.320 0.320
3 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari 24 1'36.271 0.446 0.126
4 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 20 1'36.397 0.572 0.126
5 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 17 1'36.401 0.576 0.004
6 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine 14 1'36.928 1.103 0.527
7 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes 21 1'37.064 1.239 0.136
8 Germany Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 19 1'37.151 1.326 0.087
9 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 20 1'37.215 1.390 0.064
10 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 18 1'37.290 1.465 0.075
11 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 23 1'37.310 1.485 0.020
12 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 19 1'37.449 1.624 0.139
13 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 18 1'37.468 1.643 0.019
14 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 21 1'37.519 1.694 0.051
15 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 16 1'37.622 1.797 0.103
16 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 19 1'37.888 2.063 0.266
17 Thailand Alex Albon Williams 18 1'37.904 2.079 0.016
18 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 18 1'38.028 2.203 0.124
19 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas 12 1'38.132 2.307 0.104
20 China Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 3 1'39.735 3.910 1.603

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