Verstappen tops crash-shortened third Saudi Arabian GP practice

Max Verstappen topped final practice at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a heavy crash for Zhou Guanyu restricted running.

Zhou lost the rear of his Sauber at Turn 7 and pirouetted into the barriers on the outside of Turn 8 with just over 17 minutes remaining on the clock. His C44 suffered major damage at the rear, with the front wing and right-rear corner hanging off the car. The third-year Chinese driver climbed from the wreck unscathed.

The Stake Sauber team has a little over two hours to complete the rebuild ahead of qualifying, with the extent of the damage unclear.


Repairs to the barriers took around 12 minutes, and the session resumed with just five minutes on the clock. Cars queued at the end of pit lane for their final pre-qualifying laps on the soft tire, but at the end of the flurry of laps Verstappen was still fastest, setting the bar at 1m28.412s.

Charles Leclerc followed him just 0.196s further back for Ferrari, while Sergio Perez was 0.494s behind his Red Bull Racing teammate in third.

The touch-and-go resumption of the session was good news for debutant Oliver Bearman, who is substituting for Carlos Sainz after the Spaniard full-timer was diagnosed with appendicitis.

“Take your time into the car, take you rhythm, build up from there,” was the advice to Bearman from Sainz’s usual engineer, Riccardo Adami.

The Briton had been sent out immediately upon pit lane opening at the start of the hour to maximize his seat time and to take advantage of the typically quiet opening minutes of third practice. His first flying lap clocked in at 1m33.114s with a set of medium tires, eclipsing his Formula 2 pole time from Thursday by 9.1s.

Bearman progressively lowered his time before embarking on a long run before Zhou’s red flag suspended the session. The resumption gave him a chance to sample the soft tire ahead of qualifying with a single full-power flying lap.

A mistake sent him off track at Turn 22, but he completed the lap with a time of 1m28.412s. It put him 10th in the final order, 0.894s off the pace and 0.698s behind teammate Leclerc. He will start qualifying with 22 laps behind the wheel of the SF-24.

Mercedes driver George Russell finished fourth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Aston Martin teammates Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri finished eighth ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes. Hamilton’s car was loaded up with extra rear downforce compared to teammate Russell via a larger rear wing, responding to complaints on Friday of a loose rear axle.

Bearman completed the top 10 ahead of Kevin Magnussen, Pierre Gasly, Yuki Tsunoda, Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg.

Daniel Ricciardo was 16th ahead of Alex Albon, Valtteri Bottas and the crashed-out Zhou.

Logan Sargeant completed the session in 20th and with just two laps and no time to his name. The American driver clipped the wall at the inside of Turn 22 with a heavy thump to hisWilliams’ left-front wheel. He limped back to the pits unable to steer and wasn’t seen again for the rest of the session.

Story originally appeared on Racer