FP3: Verstappen dominates final practice at Zandvoort

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Netherlands, Circuit Park Zandvoortnl

Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen ended the final practice session for the Dutch Grand Prix on top with an eye-catching lap time. The Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton finished P2 and P3 respectively.

After the incident-filled opening day at Zandvoort, drivers were eager to get more familiar with the challenging track that is set to host the 31st Dutch Grand Prix tomorrow. Lewis Hamilton is usually among the drivers who join the action in Free Practice 3 later, but the defending champion was in a rush to get his day underway after oil system problems forced him into an early end to his afternoon practice yesterday.

Yesterday’s session saw three red flag periods due to incidents involving Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Nikita Mazepin. The interrupted rhythm continued today when Carlos Sainz lost the rear end of his Ferrari SF21 coming into Turn 2. The Spaniard, who has just turned 27 this week, made a heavy impact with the banked Turn 3 with his car having sustained a significant amount of damage.

When the action continued, the field was quickly back on the track with Verstappen still without a timed lap. The Dutchman had a bit of a scare ahead of the session as he was summoned to the stewards for a possible red flag infringement that happened in Free Practice 2 for the Dutch Grand Prix.

But after hearing the evidence, the stewards ruled that the matter wouldn’t be pursued further, writing in their verdict: “It is our conclusion that [Verstappen] took every reasonable action to comply with the regulations in that he immediately reduced speed in a safe manner at the earliest opportunity upon the first indication of the red flag, even before a red flag or red light panel was visible to him.”

Verstappen used the medium compound for his first stint before conducting a low-fuel qualifying simulation. On his first flying lap on soft tyres near the end of the 60-minute session, Verstappen set a blistering pace, posting the fastest lap time of the weekend with a 1m09.623s.

The Dutchman was followed by the Mercedes duo with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton registering the second and third fastest lap respectively. After a difficult opening day, Sergio Perez showed signs of improvements in the final practice, but he was still almost a second shy of his team mate’s benchmark.

The fight in the midfield looked as closely matched as ever with Alpine, McLaren, Aston Martin, Ferrari and AlphaTauri showing very similar pace. Of these teams, Ferrari was the surprise as the Scuderia presented itself in a less convincing fashion than it did yesterday, which indicated that the Maranello-based team has either taken a bad direction in terms of setup changes or it was running a more powerful engine mode yesterday than its direct rivals.

One of the big news stories on Saturday morning was that Kimi Raikkonen had been side-lined after testing positive for Covid-19, his place was taken by Robert Kubica. The Alfa Romeo Racing’s reserve driver did no mistakes on the challening Zandvoort circuit, racking up a total of 27 laps. The Krakow-born driver ended up P19, setting a time of 1m12.162 that was nine tenths of a second slower than what his team mate Antonio Giovinazzi was able to achieve.

After a mistake on his last hot lap, Mick Schumacher ended up last in P20 with his Russian team mate Nikita Mazepin taking 18th in the final practice ahead of the all-important qualifying session.

133Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda1:09.62313
277Valtteri BottasMercedes1:10.179+0.556s17
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:10.417+0.794s22
411Sergio PerezRed Bull Racing Honda1:10.526+0.903s19
514Fernando AlonsoAlpine Renault1:10.670+1.047s16
64Lando NorrisMclaren Mercedes1:10.781+1.158s18
718Lance StrollAston Martin Mercedes1:10.842+1.219s19
85Sebastian VettelAston Martin Mercedes1:10.872+1.249s20
916Charles LeclercFerrari1:10.896+1.273s19
1010Pierre GaslyAlphatauri Honda1:11.005+1.382s21
113Daniel RicciardoMclaren Mercedes1:11.013+1.390s19
126Nicholas LatifiWilliams Mercedes1:11.083+1.460s19
1331Esteban OconAlpine Renault1:11.180+1.557s23
1463George RussellWilliams Mercedes1:11.274+1.651s20
1599Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:11.299+1.676s19
1655Carlos SainzFerrari1:11.940+2.317s5
1722Yuki TsunodaAlphatauri Honda1:11.980+2.357s29
189Nikita MazepinHaas Ferrari1:12.136+2.513s22
1988Robert KubicaAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari1:12.162+2.539s27
2047Mick SchumacherHaas Ferrari1:12.366+2.743s19