Max Verstappen topped the final practice session for the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with Sergio Perez second, the pair on another planet.
The Red Bull pair were separated by six tenths, but were a whopping nine tenths away from their closest rivals one the chequered flag for FP3 was waved and the sights were set on qualifying next.
Fernando Alonso remained to closest challenger to the Bulls, finishing the final practice session third fastest but almost one second off the pace, nothing separating the Spaniard from teammate Lance Stroll in in fourth.
Clearly, reigning Formula 1 Champion, Verstappen left more time out on track, as his time was almost three tenths slower than last year’s pole time, a 1:28.200, set by Perez.
But for now the safest bet would be on a front row lockout by Red Bull, while Alonso doing his best to give them some trouble, but Ferrari, who clearly didn’t run their engines on full power in FP3, might edge closer, but pole migh be in doubt. But let’s see…
If Friday in Jeddah told us anything, it is that we just need to know by what margin Red Bull take pole today, unless Ferrari aren’t actually lost and were bluffing big time as Editor in Chief Paul Velasco wrote.
From what we saw in the long runs on Friday, the gaps between the teams shrunk with the cars loaded with fuel which would make matters interesting on Sunday.
Worth noting though, that despite still looking in decent shape, Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin seemed a bit lees impressive on the long runs, as their performance seemed to drop while Red Bull as reference kept delivering consistent lap times on the race simulations.
Nevertheless, their is nothing stopping the Aston Martin from delivering a birthday present to their Team Principal Mike Krack.
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) March 18, 2023
Alpine made progress well into the top ten after a shaky weekend in Bahrain, while Mercedes are so deep in the woods, it’s anyone’s guess when they can find their way again, that is if they do this season.
Other than that, the revised Turn 22 has seen many drivers being caught out and running wide, so it would interesting to see how that works out in qualifying with everyone pushing hard, not to mention the infamous traffic around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit as well, many close moments registered over the course of Friday.
Jeddah FP3 session highlights
Trouble hit AlphaTauri at the start of FP3, as the team announced there was an issue detected on Nyck de Vries’ AT04, which meant the power unit needed to be changed.
Not the best way for the Dutchman to get ready for his second qualifying with the team.
unfortunately, we’ve detected an issue on @nyckdevries’ car and we are now changing his PU.
The session started with Medium and Hard tyres in use in majority, while the teams started to switch more to the softs a bit later on. Worth noting is that the Soft tyre might end being a decent race tyre with many teams doing their long runs on Friday with it.
Max Verstappen showed how much pace his RB19 has, shooting to the top of the timing screens almost three tenths faster than the closest rivals, and on Hard. That was 20 minutes into the session. Verstappen later improved on Hards as well reducing the gap to a tenth or so…
Sergio Perez soon took the top spot from his teammate but with a run on Soft tyres. He was over three tenths faster.
As we saw so many times on Friday in FP1 and FP2, Lewis Hamilton had a moment while on a timed lap with traffic ruining his lap.
Lewis Hamilton has his lap interrupted by multiple traffic moments out on track!
Making matter more interesting, FP3 was running in cloudy conditions, which meant cooler temperatures making conditions more similar to qualifying, meaning we can get a good indication from the final practice on how things might pan out in qualifying.
At the halftime mark of FP3, the Ferraris were still running under the radar, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ninth and tenth respectively, both their times set on Medium tyres.
On the other hand, both Alpine remain on strong form mingling with the others in the top ten, while Fernando Alonso was down in 19th after his first run on the Hards.
Alex Albon, mixing it up in the top ten at the halfway mark, seems to be happy with his Williams, telling his team over the radio: “It’s the best the car has ever felt.”
Lando Norris had a dangerous moment with Max Verstappen towards the end of the session at Turn 8, the Briton unimpressed, saying over the radio: “It’s dangerous what these guys do – that could have been a massive crash.”
Verstappen was quick to apologize to Norris, waving as he drove by, while complaining to his pit wall for not giving him the heads up.
The stewards noted the incident and looked into it but took no further action.
Lando Norris’ lap is impeded as he is accidentally blocked by Max Verstappen 😩