Red Bulls are a separate sport. And Max Verstappen is keen to underline that he is the champion: the Dutch ace, after working with the hard compound as a function of the race, switched to the soft, printing a 1’28″485 which remains the best performance in the third session of free practice for the Saudi Arabian GP. Max, without looking for the limit, arrived within 285 thousandths of last year’s pole position, resulting 1″3 faster than in FP3 in 2022.
The performance growth of these F1s is impressive, even if the big difference is made by the double-truck in the world, because the more “human” Sergio Perez doesn’t miss the 1’29” and stops more than six tenths from his captain. Enough to keep the Aston Martins at a distance, consolidating their role as second force: Fernando Alonso with 1’29″483 manages to limit the gap from Max to just under a second, while Lance Stroll is only 26 thousandths behind the Asturian , a sign that the “green” can aspire to a good qualification.
Many teams use two warm-up laps on the red tyres, creating traffic hazards on a track like Jeddah which has many blind spots: Lando Norris knows something about this as he found Verstappen’s RB19 in a very dangerous spot. Max immediately apologized to the Englishman, while he complained over the radio to the engineers on the wall who didn’t warn him in time.
Qualifying will be very complicated, especially in Q1 with the twenty single-seaters on track all together. Let’s hope so…
Mercedes continues to suffer with Lewis Hamilton fifth in the W14: this time the seven-times world champion did better than George Russell who finished 11th, giving up an attempt due to traffic. The black arrow stays within a second and manages to do better than Ferrari.
Charles Leclerc is sixth at 1″1: the Monegasque dedicated a good part of the session to verifying the set-up modifications that were studied on the simulator during the night with medium tires. Carlos Sainz also performed a similar program which envisaged a mini-long run on petrol. In short, the two Prancing Horse riders didn’t have the opportunity to prepare for a real qualifying lap except for the last one. And what’s more, they did a run on the soft tires with the engine still deflated. it’s the way to approach qualifying on a very treacherous street circuit, with very close walls and very high top speeds.You mustn’t push too hard.
Sainz, therefore, did not go beyond a mediocre tenth time: but it shouldn’t be the Madrid native who aims for pole position, with Charles relegated further back by ten positions to be served on tomorrow’s starting grid.
McLaren has given a sign of awakening by placing Lando Norris, seventh and Oscar Piastri, eighth: the two are separated by the blink of an eye, a sign that they have reached the limit of the MCL60 which is not exciting.
More was expected from Pierre Gasly ninth with Alpine: the Frenchman obtained his time rather early to then devote himself to a long run. The same fate befell Esteban Ocon who finished 14th on the other A523.
Guanyu Zhou with Alfa Romeo is 12th: the Chinese is doing a more profitable job than that done by Valtteri Bottas only 18th with the other C43. Nico Hulkenberg confirms that he is a driver suitable for the flying lap and with the Haas he is 13th, while Kevin Magnussen who is not comfortable with the set-up of his VF-23 is 17th, two tenths behind the German.
The Williams defend themselves as best they can with Alexander Albon 15th followed by the American Sargeat, not at all in psychological subjection with the more experienced teammate. Bad AlphaTauri: Yuki Tsunoda is 19th, while Nyck De Vries did not take part in the session. The Dutchman had to give up the last free practice session due to a problem with the Honda power unit which required the replacement of the engine due to some anomalous parameters which forced the team from Faenza to intervene. The mechanics are working hard to allow the Frisian to be the protagonist in qualifying.
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