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Verstappen quickest in final practice


Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 26 degrees, while the track temperature is 43 degrees.

Thankfully, the big news today doesn't concern Christian Horner or Mohammed ben Sulayem, but instead relates to Carlos Sainz who has been forced to withdraw from the remainder of the weekend's activities after being diagnosed with appendicitis.

His place in the second Ferrari is therefore taken by 18-year-old Essex racer, Oliver Bearman.

Fernando Alonso was quickest in yesterday evening's more representative session, with Russell, Verstappen and Leclerc also looking strong.

The lights go green, but only Bottas appears eager to get things underway. He heads out on mediums.

Next out is Bearman, who also sports the yellow-banded rubber.

Bottas posts a benchmark 31.307, Bearman responds with a 33.114 as Hamilton, Stroll and Alonso head out.

While the Aston Martin pair are on hards, Hamilton has opted for softs.

On the red-banded rubber Hamilton posts a 30.793.

"Take your time into the car, take your rhythm build up from there," Bearman is advised.

While Bottas improves to 31.139, Bearman stops the clock at 31.273.

The Aston Martin pair without posting times, as Zhou, Russell and Norris head out, the Mercedes driver, like his teammate, on the softs.

Bearman goes quickest with a 30.277 as Russell goes quickest in the first sector. The Mercedes driver can only manage a 30.330.

Hamilton improves to 30.253 as Tsunoda goes fifth and Tsunoda sixth.

"I hate these things on my headrest," complains Bearman, "they are too thick, can we maybe put on thinner ones?"

Quickest in the first two sectors, Russell crosses the line at 29.862 as Leclerc goes second (30.008) on the mediums.

Perez, like the Mercedes pair, is on softs, as are Sargeant, Gasly, Ocon and Albon.

Zhou goers fifth with a 30.739, but is demoted when Perez stops the clock at 29.562.

Verstappen heads out on softs, leaving Magnussen as the only no show.

Hulkenberg (softs) goes fifth with a 30.273, as Verstappen goes quickest in S1. The Dutchman crosses the line at 29.773.

With 35 minutes remaining, while Magnussen has yet to appear, Stroll, Alonso, Norris, Piastri and Sargeant have yet to post times.

On the mediums, Leclerc goes quickest with a 29.206.

Norris goes sixth with a 29.957 on the softs, as Bearman heads out on fresh mediums.

Verstappen runs wide in Turn 9, next time around he's quickest in all three sectors, crossing the line at 28.893.

Magnussen runs wide in Turn 14.

On their first timed laps Stroll and Alonso can only manage 18th and 19th, but Stroll (mediums) subsequently improves to 12th with a 30.524.

Finally out on track, Magnussen immediately goes third with a 29.485.

"I need to box, front left gone," says Sargeant after clipping the wall, the American driver most likely referring to his suspension as opposed to his tyre.

Alonso improves to tenth on the mediums.

Quickest in the opening sector, Norris dives into the pits, echoing what his teammate did yesterday.

Verstappen ups the ante with a 28.412, 0.794s up on Leclerc.

"I didn't get the message," says Stroll after impeding Gasly, while teammate Alonso improves to third with a 29.473. "I don't understand what this guy is doing," says Gasly.

"I hit something in Turn 10," reports Verstappen, "I don't know if it was a plastic bottle or something, but I hit something with my right front tyre."

Six of the top eight positions are filled by soft runners, the exceptions being second-place Leclerc and third-place Alonso who are both on mediums.

With 16 minutes remaining, the session is red-flagged when Zhou crashes at Turn 8.

Replay shows he appeared to lose the rear and in Turn 7, a very fast part of the track.

"Sorry mate, I lost the car," reports the Chinese driver. "I don't know what happened, otherwise I'm OK."

The Stake has incurred a lot of damage, particularly at the rear. The mechanics have a lot of work to do during the break.

Elsewhere, Williams confirms that Sargeant will play no further part in the session after clipping the barrier.

Of course, this stoppage is frustrating for everyone, not least Bearman who has yet to run the softs.

The session resumes with just 5 minutes remaining, Magnussen heading the long, long queue of drivers eager to get back to work.

He is followed by Gasly, Bottas, Russell and Ricciardo. Further back, Hulkenberg forces his way into the queue ahead of Russell.

Purples from Leclerc and Russell as everyone is running the red-banded rubber.

Russell goes second (28.964), Hulkenberg seventh and Ricciardo 8th.

Alonso goes fourth and Stoll fifth, as Bearman runs wide in the final corner and can only manage seventh (29.306).

Norris goes fourth, but is demoted when Perez goes third.

Piastri goes eighth, Gasly twelfth and though quickest in the opening sector, Verstappen fails to improve his overall time.

The session ends. Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Leclerc, Perez, Russell, Norris, Alonso, Stroll, Piastri, Hamilton and Bearman.

Magnussen is eleventh, ahead of Gasly, Tsunoda, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Albon, Bottas, Zhou and Sargeant.

Due to the different conditions it's hard to read anything into this morning's times, but if nothing else the potential for a fairy-tale weekend for Oliver Bearman might at least keep the Christian Horner and Mohammed ben Sulayem sagas out of the headlines.


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