F1: Carlos Sainz tops FP3 ahead of qualifying

Carlos Sainz has topped the final practice session of the opening race weekend!

The Spaniard finished ahead of Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen.

The teams took their time to get out onto the track, but after 10 minutes Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to set lap times. After a positive Thursday, the seven-time World Champion would have been looking to further understand his W15 ahead of qualifying. With the soft tyres bolted on, quali sims were underway.

The two Ferraris were next to come out of the garage and had soft tyres on, along with Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu in their Saubers. Charles Leclerc went to the top of the timesheets after 17 minutes of running, but there was only 0.056s between him and Hamilton.

Both Red Bulls were on the hard tyre, the opposite of the rest of the grid’s strategy. World Champion Verstappen put himself into 10th place, 0.1s ahead of teammate Sergio Perez. The latter was very quickly on the radio to his engineer to complain about upshift problems, the same issue that Verstappen was dealing with in yesterday’s sessions.

Halfway into the session, neither of the Alpines or RBs had set a lap time, along with Logan Sargent.  Alonso set three purple sectors and sat on top of the timesheet after 30 minutes. Daniel Ricciardo, who was quickest of everyone in FP1, sat tenth.

After everybody (apart from the Red Bulls) had set a lap on the red-striped soft tyre, Alonso still sat top, ahead of Russell and Leclerc. Yuki Tsunoda set a respectable lap and was fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari. Lando Norris was in his McLaren, after taking new engine parts.

With 15 minutes remaining, Verstappen and Perez put soft tyres on and went first and second in the times, still ahead of Alonso. The Spaniard however was back to the top of the pile in no time as the lap times started to drop. Norris went up to third, with teammate Piastri behind in fourth.

With only five minutes left, Alonso’s fellow Spaniard Sainz went into first place, 0.141s ahead of second. His teammate Leclerc however couldn’t match that pace and went to fourth ahead of Norris. That was the end of the qualifying simulations, with Sainz, Alonso and Verstappen in the top three.

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