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Leclerc edges out Red Bull pair in final practice


Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 24 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30 degrees.

Of course, the main topic of conversation overnight has been yesterday's attack on a nearby oil depot, the smoke and glow from which still fills the sky.

Despite the fears of some drivers, F1 bosses and the FIA assure them that all is OK, as do the Saudi authorities and the race promoter.

Back to the F1 stuff, while Ferrari set the pace again yesterday, both drivers lost valuable track time after clouting the walls, meaning that neither Leclerc or Sainz completed any meaningful running with high fuel loads. However, the Scuderia's single-lap pace was very impressive.

The Red Bulls looked good, as did the Mercedes, though, like Ferrari, the German team is still suffering from porpoising.

On-board footage showed that the Red Bull suffers porpoising also, though not nearly as bad as some of its rivals - indeed, Adrian Newey appears to have it all under control, as ever.

Lando Norris had a good FP2, while Alpine and AlphaTauri looked strong. Also, Bottas was in the mix.

Magnussen had s fraught day losing time in both sessions due to technical issues, mostly hydraulics related.

As was the case yesterday - and indeed last week - due to the different conditions, this session is pretty much irrelevant as qualifying and the race take place at night when it is cooler.

The lights go green and Bottas leads the way, followed by Magnussen and Zhou. All three are on hards.

Hamilton is fourth out, again on the white-banded rubber.

Schumacher and Stroll head out on mediums.

Nobody is posting a time, each driver pitting after one or two install laps.

The Ferrari pair head out, both sporting the softs.

Bottas reports a "bit of a vibration".

Leclerc posts the first time of the day, the championship leader crossing the line at 53.016. Sainz posts a 59.343.

Leclerc is warned of a headwind into Turn 1, 25% stronger than yesterday.

Next time around the Monegasque improves to 31.052, while Sainz responds with a 31.011.

Norris joins the Ferrari pair, the three having the track to themselves.

At which point the timing system fails.

Bottas goes third, Zhou fourth and Norris fifth.

Gasly goes fourth, Tsunoda sixth, Ricciardo eighth, and Russell ninth.

Unfortunately, the timing system is around 2 minutes behind what is actually happening, making it all very difficult.

Perez has gone fourth and Magnussen tenth.

Perez splits the Ferraris with a 30.291 as Verstappen aborts his first flying lap.

Verstappen goes fourth with a 30.453, but is demoted when Gasly posts a 30.148, moments later his AlphaTauri teammate posts a 30.415 to go fifth.

So, after 28 minutes, it's: Leclerc Gasly, Perez, Sainz, Tsunoda, Verstappen, Bottas, Zhou, Hamilton and Schumacher.

A 29.768 sees Verstappen go quickest, the Dutchman on the softs, as indeed are all the drivers.

Alonso improves to seventh with a 30.519.

Gasly appears to have an issue, the Frenchman having stopped at the end of the pit lane exit.

With the timing system still 2 minutes behind it is all very confusing.

As Gasly pushes his car back up the pitlane, marshals rush to his assistance.

A 30.030 sees Bottas go second, just 0.262s off Verstappen's pace.

PBs in the first two sectors see Hamilton go 9th (30.838), 1.070s off Verstappen's best.

"Lots of traffic, what is Merc doing," asks Zhou, after appearing to trip up over Russell as he exited the pits. The youngster is told to calm down.

Hamilton improves to 30.825 but remains ninth. The Briton is told that bhis main loss to Verstappen is the "entry minimum speed to the last corner".

With 10:00 remaining, Verstappen heads out on fresh softs. A PB is the first sector is followed by a purple in S2. However he overdoes it in T22 - much to Adrian Newey's delight - subsequently aborting the lap.

A 29.833 sees Perez close to within 0.065s of his teammate.

All eyes on Leclerc, who is on fresh softs. He goes quickest in S1, but loses time in S2 before posting a PB in the final sector. He crosses the line at 29.879 to go third.

Magnussen goes sixth with a 30.262.

Sainz goes quickest in S1, but like his teammate loses pace in S2. A PB in S2 sees the Spaniard cross the line at 30.009 to go fourth, 0.241s down on Verstappen.

PBs in the first two sectors, are enough to see Ocon improve to sixth (30.139).

A late attack from Leclerc sees the Ferrari driver go quickest (29.735), despite a relatively poor final sector.

The session ends. Leclerc is quickest, ahead of Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Bottas, Ocon, Gasly, Magnussen, Alonso and Tsunoda.

Hamilton is eleventh, ahead of Schumacher, Zhou, Russell, Stroll, Ricciardo, Albon, Hulkenberg, Norris and Latifi.

So, as in Bahrain it appears to be Ferrari versus Red Bull, while Bottas and Magnussen are also very much back in the mix, as are the Alpines and AlphaTauris.

On the other hand, Mercedes clearly has work to do, as do McLaren, Aston Martin and Williams.

An interesting session, despite the best efforts of the timing system.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Jeddah, here.


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