George Russell topped the final practice session for the 2023 Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix, while Ferrari and Red Bull couldn’t show their speed.
Before Mercedes fans rejoice, they should keep in mind that the session was Red flagged just as the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, as well as Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, were getting ready to do their final qualifying runs.
But Alex Albon hit the walls hard coming out of Turn 5, causing his rear-left tyre to come off the rim, which brought out the Red flag, the session not resumed.
That meant Leclerc (16th), Sainz (17th), and Verstappen (fourth) missed out on putting in a flyer towards the end when the grip conditions were best.
That meant Russell who set his fastest time earlier was fastest, ahead of Oscar Piastri in second, and Logan Sargeant in third.
It was a shame for Albon, and hopefully his incident doesn’t mean he needs a new gearbox, as he was showing good speed in Las Vegas, Williams’ final chance in 2023 to score some points.
We expected Sargeant to be the one who hits the wall at Turn 5 as he came close several times during the session, but in the end, it was Albon who did.
But looking into the session as a whole, qualifying is going to be a straight fight between Leclerc and Verstappen, with Sainz maybe causing some nuisance.
However, Leclerc seems to have a slight advantage over Verstappen, as he seems to be able to extract the pace out of his SF-23 more easily than his rival.
Nevertheless, an exciting qualifying awaits.
Buildup towards FP3
After what was an embarrassing start for F1’a highly anticipated Las Vegas weekend, an event that cost hundreds of millions of dollars that got crippled by a tiny drain valve cover, FP2 with a additional 30 minutes made sure drivers and teams got through some useful running.
And the running continues in FP3, before we head into qualifying later on, and one can only hope no nasty surprises ruin our second day of racing in Vegas.
Ferrari looked good on Friday, with Red Bull second best – in qualifying trim that is – but the latter usually improve from Friday to Saturday, so let’s see how the Verstappen/Leclerc showdown continues.
Sainz seemed decent as well but would have to race with the burden of the ridiculous ten-place grid penalty he received for having to use a new power unit after the old one was destroyed by the valve cover.
Mercedes and McLaren struggled on Friday, so will they make any inroads today, especially that Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin seemed to be third best behind the Ferraris and the Bulls?
Friday’s running in cold conditions showed it was a challenge for the drivers to keep their tyres in the proper operating window, so how till the best 20 drivers in the world deal with this?
The show off track was amazing in Vegas, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that qualifying and the race later on show us some great racing. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Las Vegas FP3 session highlights
FP3 kicked off in cold conditions, as was the case on Friday, the ambient temperatures at 17 degrees Celsius, while the track temperature was 19 degrees.
Drivers took a bit of time getting running, but Piastri was the first driver to hit the track, followed by Lando Norris, as the Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari drivers followed.
Sainz had an off at Turn 1, running a bit deep, but kept going, and soon went on to post his first time of the session, a 1:39.367 that put him top of the times. Leclerc soon goes faster.
Zhou Guanyu soon had a moment, locking up heavily going into Turn 14. no damage though. He keeps going.
Ten minutes into the session, only 11 cars were on track, but Verstappen finally had his helmet on and climbed into his RB19 to kick off his final practice.
The drivers continued to work hard to get to grips with the track, especially with the tyres and making them work properly, with Kevin Magnussen causing a brief Yellow flag going off at Turn 5.
Magnussen and Leclerc had a couple of close calls out there, the second one was two close for comfort, as finally and twenty minutes into FP3, Verstappen and Sergio Perez finally made their way to the track.
Daniel Ricciardo, over 20 minutes into the session, locked up in the Turn 7 and 8 chicane, another example of how getting the tyres working was a tricky affair in Las Vegas.
As for those interested in the top speeds registered so far in Vegas, have a look:
Verstappen started FP3 on new Soft tyres, and his first lap put him third on the screens, behind Leclerc and Sainz who were first and second, but on Mediums!
Valtteri Bottas soo after brought out another brief Yellow flag at Turn 5, the rear of his Alfa Romeo snapping, but the Finn kept it together.
Perez went fastest on his first timed lap on Softs, beating Leclerc’s time on Mediums by over seven tenths of a second, but Verstappen soon goes half a second faster than Perez on his second timed lap.
It seems the second timed lap would extract the best times out of the cars.
Sergio Perez lights up the timing screens and takes P1 with a lap time of 1:35.146 😮💨💪
Sargeant, halfway into the session, lost his Williams into Turn 5, but got saved by the run-off area and was on his way. But then gets a bit too brave, too close to the wall coming out of Turn 5 as well.
With half of FP3 done, McLaren still seemed to be in bad shape, Norris and Piastri out of the top ten, 14th and 15th respectively.
It does not seem that one warm-up lap would be enough. Russell on new Softs tyres for a qualifying run, had to back off his timed lap and then started heating up his tyres again, as they didn’t seem in the proper window.
Lewis Hamilton, in the other Mercedes started his qualifying simulation in the final 20 minutes, and went 1.3s slower than the top time at that moment. Russell then went faster, over four tenths off the pace.
Hamilton was informed that he should do better on his second push-lap. Russell soon goes better and tops the screens momentarily as other drivers started more qualifying runs on new Soft tyres.
Yuki Tsunoda was given a black and white flag for crossing the line at the pitlane entry, something we saw several times on Friday in FP2.
Zhou had another huge lockup moment, but going into Turn 1 this time, while Verstappen on a flying lap missed his barking point at Turn 12 and had to go into the run-off area.
Max Verstappen runs veeeeery wide on his attempt to set a quick lap 👀