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Leclerc edges our Russell and Verstappen in final practice

NEWS STORY
03/09/2022

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 22.6 degrees C, while the track temperature is 27.7 degrees. Again, it is bright and sunny.

The big question today is whether Red Bull has answer to yesterday's issues for both Verstappen and Perez were clearly struggling.

Losing track time in FP! Due to a transmission issue was bad enough, but in the afternoon session the world champion appeared all at sea.

No such issues for Ferrari or Mercedes however, while McLaren and Alpine also looked strong.

The lights go green and first out are the Aston Martin pair, followed by Perez. The Mexican is on softs while the Astons are on hards. However, both Aston drivers pit after one lap and switch to mediums.

Perez gets things going with a 13.792, as the AlphaTauri pair head down the pitlane. However, like their Aston Martin counterparts the complete one lap on the hards - for scrubbing purposes 0 before pitting.

Interestingly, outside the Mercedes garage Toto Wolff is engaged in earnest conversation with the FIA president, Mohammed ben Sulayem.

In the meantime, Perez has improved to 13.603, none the less he complains the rear "was quite a lot worse this time around, into the medium speed". "Yes, we can see that," he is told.

Twelve minutes in and a gaggle of cars head out, Verstappen leading the way. Most are on softs though Ocon is on mediums.

The Dutchman goes quickest with a 12.309, which is already quicker than anything we've seen so far this weekend. The crowd shows its delight.

Russell posts a 12.934 to go second, ahead of Sainz, Hamilton, Perez and Leclerc, the Monegasque essentially having aborted his lap.

"I just don't have the grip anymore after one timed lap," says Verstappen.

Schumacher goes third with a 13.253, as Verstappen - he of no grip - improves to 12.196.

Sainz improves to 12.917, with PBs in all three sectors, but remains 0.721s off Verstappen's pace.

A 12.991 sees Stroll go fourth, however he is demoted when Leclerc goes second with a 12.720 and Hamilton third with a 12.823.

Vette goes eighth (13.455), ahead of Perez, Magnussen, Norris and Albon.

Still no times from Tsunoda, Gasly, Bottas or Zhou, with 35 minutes remaining.

Hamilton is unhappy at a dawdling Tsunoda on the banked Turn 7. Ironically, yesterday it was the Briton who was causing problems.

Back on track, Perez has improved to 13.503 but remains 9th, 1.3s off his teammate's pace. The Mexican, remember, is running a different floor to Verstappen, this being the floor introduced last weekend.

Verstappen is back on track, the Dutchman on used softs, as Mattia Binotto admits the world champion's pace is "disappointing".

"There are a lot of challenges on this track to balance the car," says the Italian, "and we are quite understeering in the high-speed corners so we are working on the set up to make it the best for the qualifying."

In the Ferrari garage there is a lot of work going on on the underside of Leclerc's car.

Meanwhile, at the wrong end of the timesheets, Ricciardo joins the Alfas, Alphas and Latifi, the Australian currently 19th, 2.8s off the pace.

Quickest in the final sector, and on fresh softs, Albon goes third with a 12.775.

The qualifying sims are underway.

Sainz goes quickest in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 11.971.

The gauntlet has been thrown.

Vettel goes quickest in S1, and no sooner has teammate Stroll posted a 12.773 to go fourth, than the four-time world champion posts a 12.491 to go third.

Wham, bam... Leclerc bangs in a 11.632 having gone quickest in all three sectors.

Moment later, Russell splits the Ferraris with an 11.698, as Alonso goes fifth (12.327) ahead of the Aston Martin pair.

As Hamilton improves to fourth with a 12.156, Verstappen heads out, along with his teammate, who has slipped down to 17th.

The Mexican immediately goes quickest in the first sector. Stopping the clock at 12.176, Perez improves to 6th, while Verstappen can only manage third (11.837).

The top three - Leclerc, Russell and Verstappen - are covered by 0.205s.

Late improvements for the Haas pair, as Schumacher goes ninth and Magnussen 11th.

Quickest in the final sector, Verstappen remains third but closes the gap to Leclerc to 0.161s.

In the final moments Sainz almost trips up over a dithering Perez in the chicane. "I don't know what Perez is doing," says the Spaniard.

Elsewhere, Gasly runs wide and takes a bumpy ride over the grass.

The session ends. Leclerc is quickest, ahead of Russell, Verstappen, Sainz, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Vettel, Schumacher and Norris.

Magnussen is eleventh, ahead of Stroll, Albon, Ocon, Gasly, Tsunoda, Ricciardo, Bottas, Zhou and Latifi.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Zandvoort here.

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