Verstappen back on top in FP3 as difficult conditions hit Zandvoort

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Verstappen leads the way on home soil in rain soaked, incident affected final practice session for the Dutch Grand Prix as Liam Lawson gets his first taste of Formula 1 as a competitive entry with AlphaTauri.

Max Verstappen on a rain soaked Zandvoort circuit for the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix
Photo: @F1 on twitter

Max Verstappen was first to hit the rain soaked circuit as the light went green for final practice at his home Grand Prix. Incumbent Liam Lawson replacing an injured Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri quickly followed the two time champion out of the pit lane, eager to settle into the AT04 ahead of qualifying later this afternoon.

Verstappen was first to set a time with a 1:27.514 on wet weather tyres as the other drivers began tentatively making their way onto the track. A sideways moment at turn three on the following lap saw the Red Bull man dangerously close to making contact with the wall. His Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was next to push the limits, taking a trip across the gravel at turn 12 before returning to the pits.

Eager to explore the grip levels on track, Lando Norris and Oscar Piatri at McLaren both hit the track on intermediate tyres early on in the session. Another intermediate runner however, Kevin Magnussen in the Haas, showed the lack of grip on track, bringing out an early red flag just 11 minutes into the session as he found the barriers at the exit of turn 3.

A mid corner moment of oversteer saw the Haas man spin and hit the exit barrier sideways and facing the wrong direction.

With just over 40 minutes left on the clock, the session resumed with a rush to get on track. Lewis Hamilton quickly set an opening time 2.818s slower than Verstappen, albeit on intermediate tyres. The times quickly began to fall however as Charles Leclerc was first to top Verstappen before nearly hitting the wall.

Norris then went faster than Leclerc before Verstappen retook the top spot with a 1:25.197, 1.555s faster than that of Lando Norris, with both drivers running the intermediate tyres over Leclerc’s full wets.

25 minutes into the session a second red flag was flown as Guanyu Zhou found himself stuck in the gravel as a snap of oversteer led the Alfa Romeo driver off track at the final turn. Ten minutes later the session resumed with only 25 minutes left on the clock.

Quick to hit the track was Carlos Sainz. Yet to set a time the Ferrari man attacked turn 1 carrying too much speed and escorted himself around the escape road immediately abandoning his opening lap. At the second time of asking, Sainz managed to slot himself into P5 2.740s slower than Verstappen.

With the track slowly drying, Lando Norris put his McLaren back on top with a 1:25.086, 0.111s faster than Verstappen. Teammate Oscar Piastri then jumped Norris, going 0.193 seconds faster before Norris once again regained the top spot, jumping his teammate but a full 1.216s seconds.

Another experienced driver to demonstrate the difficulty of the conditions was Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin, emulating the Ferrari’s as he went straight on at turn 1. Next to fall foul was Esteban Ocon in the Alpine suffering a lockup and making contact with the barrier.

With 12 minutes remaining the red flag was shown for a third time as Liam Lawson found himself facing the wrong way on the inside of the final corner. Lawson was able to keep the AT04 running and return to the pitlane with the session soon resuming with just nine minutes remaining on the clock.

Not to be shown up on home soil, Verstappen returned to the track putting on a show for his adoring fans on his way to the top spot with an impressive 1:22.758, almost a second faster than Lando Norris’ previous best.

Finding the escape road once again at turn 1 was Charles Lecerc, locking up once again as he attacked the first corner. The Ferrari man was lucky yet again to keep his SF-23 out of the Tecpro.

With the rain stopped for the moment and the track surface quickly drying the times tumbled in the closing moments of the session, with Verstappen once again improving, beating his previous best by over a second as the first driver hitting the 21s second mark. His 1:21.631 puts him 1.148s ahead of George Russell in P2.

FP3 classification
Photo: @F1 on twitter