Verstappen rules third Miami GP practice
Max Verstappen remained at the top of the times in final practice for the Miami Grand Prix, enjoying a clear advantage over the rest of the field.
The championship leader was fastest by 0.6s for much of the session before what appeared to be his final qualifying simulation, but if it wanted a timed effort Red Bull had sent him out too late to start a lap and Verstappen just failed to beat the checkered flag. That meant his time of 1m27.535s was only 0.4s clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who did complete a final attempt on soft tires to edge out teammate Sergio Perez in third.
Carlos Sainz was fourth for Ferrari as the Scuderia remained Red Bull’s closest challenger but the gap looks a little bigger than it was in Azerbaijan over one lap, so it will be Verstappen who heads into qualifying as the favorite for pole position.
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Alpine enjoyed a strong FP3 but only enjoyed a tiny advantage over the other midfield cars, with Esteban Ocon fifth on a 1m28.407s, 0.021s ahead of Pierre Gasly in sixth and with Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg within 0.1s.
Alex Albon and George Russell rounded out the top 10, with Mercedes struggling throughout the session as Russell complained of his car hopping through Turn 2, while Lewis Hamilton had a number of lock-ups into the Turn 17 hairpin at the end of the lap.
While it was another hot and sunny day in Miami Gardens, the wind was noted as being stronger than on the opening day of running, with many drivers then suffering snaps through the first sector when faced with a tailwind. Sainz was one such driver to run off track at Turn 8 — where his teammate crashed on Friday — while there was also a similar moment for Lando Norris through Turn 4.
It was a slow start to the session for the two Haas drivers following incidents during Friday practice, but once they hit the track both Kevin Magnussen and Hulkenberg were quickly up to speed. Hulkenberg did clout a curb on the exit of Turn 9 and backed off on his first qualifying simulation before going eighth, while Magnussen was just 0.001s behind Russell in 11th.
Aston Martin didn’t show its hand in the final practice session as Fernando Alonso was 12th and Lance Stroll 14th — sandwiching Hamilton — while the McLaren drivers were notably low in the order with Oscar Piastri ahead of Norris in 18th and 19th respectively.
Logan Sargeant did beat the two McLarens and was complaining about the balance being “all over the place” and added that he was “really struggling to drive this (car) at the moment” as he ended up 0.7s adrift of Albon’s time in the other Williams.
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