Montreal FP3: Verstappen tops, Leclerc behind, Sainz crashes

Max Verstappen topped a wet final practice for the 2023 Canadian Grand Prix, the Red Bull ace chased by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

After having a slow start for his weekend in Canada, Verstappen finally got into the zone in FP3 and was the fastest driver in tricky wet conditions.

And while Ferrari seemed to be to closest challengers to reigning Formula 1 Champion, Carlos Sainz binned his SF-23 at Turn 1, while Leclerc could not get closer than three tenths to Verstappen.

Mercedes, on the other hand, were nowhere to be found in FP3 with Lewis Hamilton down in tenth.

Fernando Alonso could not seem to break into the fight between Verstappen and the Ferraris, the Aston Martin seemingly the third fastest car for the second week in a row, the Spaniard third fastest in FP3.

Sergio Perez in the sister Red Bull could not muster more than 17th.

Buildup towards FP3

Mercedes grabbed the headline after Hamilton and George Russell were the two fastest cars at the end of FP2 on Friday, but will the Black Arrows maintain that form for the rest of the weekend?

It was worth noting that Mercedes did their qualifying simulations at a time when the track had more grip unlike their rivals so their speed should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Verstappen admitted he was not fully happy with his RB19, but Red Bull usually turn up on Saturday with a better car, not to forget Ferrari which looked decent on Friday.

Ferrari are usually good on one-lap speed, but their race pace from the practice on Friday was also not bad, and while Aston Martin look to dial in their updated AMR23, will the Scuderia take the fight to the Bulls in Canada?

A final mention for the weather in Montreal, as rain is expected over the course of the weekend, and while it hit late in FP2 on Friday, FP3 started in full wet conditions.

Rain is expected for Qualifying later today, but the race will probably be a dry one, which should make matter interesting.

Montreal FP3 session highlights

So FP3 kicked off in rainy conditions with the full wet tyres being the order of the day as drivers ventured out on track to start their final preparations before Qualifying.

Early on, Russell reported some issues with his W14; he told the team: “Bit of pulling to the left hand side under braking.”

Yuki Tsunoda had a moment at Turn 6, but was lucky not to end up in the barriers.

The times started getting better as the session progressed, as the track was ready for Intermediate tyres around the 15-minute mark of the session.

Alonso was the first to venture out on the Inters, and while he slid on his first timed lap on them, he went fastest of all on the second try, going fastest by more than a second.

He didn’t stay there for long, as the track kept getting better and the lap times kept dropping.

Twenty minutes into the session, Alex Albon had a close moment with Sainz who was on the racing line. The Williams driver was not happy.

“As always, just dangerous from the Ferrari, all the time. He just stopped it in the middle of the chicane,” he said.

To make things worse, Albon had another moment with a Ferrari, Sainz as well. Albon wants the incident taken up by the stewards.

“This has to go to the stewards now, it’s the same guy again,” Albon said. And indeed the stewards announced Sainz will be investigated after the session.

In the meantime, Tsunoda had another spin, but this time at Turn 2, but was lucky again not to crash, just a dent in his pride.

Verstappen, like Friday, is not happy with his downshifts again. He radioed the team: “These downshifts are getting worse and worse, lap after lap.

But he goes fastest just after he says that.

To make things worse for Sainz, he crashed his Ferrari around the halfway mark, brining out the Red flags. The conditions were tricky as various drivers had incidents but were lucky to escape them, but not Sainz.

Sainz lost his SF-23 under braking into Turn 1, hitting the wall with both the rear and front end of the car, giving his mechanics quite the task to glue the Red car together in time for Qualifying.

The session was resumed with less than 25 minutes remaining from the session.

Soon after the session was restarted, Hamilton had a scary moment at Turn 1, but unlike Sainz survived to keep going.

As the session entered the final ten minutes, the rain intensity increased with all the drivers heading back to the pits, as running was pointless, effectively ending the session prematurely.

How they finished

Leclerc was 0.291s behind Verstappen at the end of FP3, the latter topping the timing screens with a 1:23.106, the top being the only drivers dipping into the 1:23’s.

Alonso clocked the third fastest time in the Aston Martin, but was a whopping 1.377s off the pace, and was followed by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, the Dane 0.232s further down the road in fourth.

Before crashing, Sainz registered a time of 1:24.765, and that was good enough to put him in fifth place, with Pierre Gasly 0.060s behind him in sixth.

Lance Stroll was seventh fastest in the other Aston Martin, and was 0.461s slowed than teammate Alonso.

Tsunoda survived a couple of scary moments to finish eighth fastest, his best lap time being 1:24.955, with Valtteri Bottas 0.033s behind the Japanese in ninth.

Hamilton was tenth fastest in the Mercedes, almost two seconds slower than Verstappen. Russell was down in 15th.

FP3 Official Results