Piastri leads Norris as Alonso and Perez crash out of Imola FP3

Oscar Piastri topped final practice at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix after a frenetic final few minutes of the session owing to a late red flag caused by Sergio Perez.

Perez was on a flying lap on fresh softs when he took too big a bite out of the curb entering Variante Alta. His Red Bull car was launched into the air and landed awkwardly, with the momentum spitting him into the outside barrier, where he lost his front wing.

Red flags were called to recover the broken car with less than six minutes remaining, but quick work from the marshals enabled the session to resume with a couple of minutes still on the clock.


Piastri had set the time to beat of 1m 15.529s in his McLaren shortly before the interruption, albeit with no other driver having had the time to string together a lap in reply.

But the chaos of the resumption, with the entire field queuing to exit pit lane together, meant few drivers got a clear shot at top spot anyway, leaving the Australian 0.3s clear at the head of the table.

He headed McLaren teammate Lando Norris in the final order, the Briton one of those to navigate the traffic to set a competitive time, albeit well shy of his teammate.

The messy ending to the hour left the competitive order shrouded ahead of an intriguing qualifying session in which Max Verstappen’s perfect pole run is tipped to be challenged by both McLaren and Ferrari.

Carlos Sainz spent most of the session at the top of the order, but the late chaos dropped him to third and most than half a second off the pace. Teammate Charles Leclerc was 0.02s further back, while George Russell represented Mercedes in fifth.

Max Verstappen could do no better than sixth, 0.837s off the pace, for Red Bull. Though the Dutchman wasn’t able to complete a final flying lap, at no stage did the title leader look markedly more comfortable than he had on his uncomfortable Friday, his RB20 notably less compliant over the curbs.

Combining his best sector times would bring Verstappen to a still distant 0.456s of Piastri’s time, and his interrupted fastest lap looked likely to be good enough only to potentially challenge Norris for second at best.

Alex Albon was seventh for Williams ahead of Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and the sole surviving Aston Martin of Lance Stroll after teammate Fernando Alonso committed an uncharacteristic error at Rivazza during a long run on hard tires.

The veteran Spaniard carried too much speed from too wide an entry into Turn 18. His Aston Martin broke traction immediately on entry, spinning into the gravel and hitting the barrier backwards.

Though he reported he was okay, he was taken to the medical center for precautionary checks after the smash.

A five-minute red flag was called with 35 minutes on the clock, leaving the Silverstone team with a power of work to do to ready Alonso’s car for qualifying.

Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10 for Haas ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, the crashed Sergio Perez and Yuki Tsunoda.

Valtteri Bottas was 14th ahead of Logan Sargeant, Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton – who never completed a single-lap performance run – the smashed Alonso, Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu.

Story originally appeared on Racer