Verstappen dominates final practice in Jeddah ahead of Perez and Alonso; Ferrari down the order

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Final practice in Jeddah for the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP, Red Bull and Max Verstappen showed total dominance around the Corniche, with their nearest challengers Aston Martin. Ferrari ended up down the order, and McLaren surprised positively by having both cars in the top 10.

Photo Credits: Oracle Red Bull Racing

In what is usually not a very representative session due to the hotter conditions compared to the night time from qualifying and the race it was Max Verstappen who set the pace around the Jeddah Corniche in final practice, ahead of Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso.

Ahead of the session starting, AlphaTauri confirmed that it was changing the power unit on Nyck de Vries’s car, meaning the Dutchman would miss the session entirely.

In the first ten minutes, the only action on-track was provided by the Aston Martin cars doing installation laps.

With a third of the session gone, a flurry of activity took place at the track, with Max Verstappen setting an impressive early benchmark on the hard compound tyres, putting him ahead of Gasly, Russell, Hamilton and Ocon – all of which on the soft tyres.

He was soon replaced by his team-mate Sergio Perez, who posted a time that was a third of a second faster than the Dutchman, on the soft tyres.

Mercedes’ struggles continued during the early part of FP3, with George Russell’s early benchmark on the soft nearly nine tenths slower than Perez. His team-mate Lewis Hamilton suffered from traffic in his first flying lap, and pitted afterwards.

Alex Albon set a good lap in his Williams, sitting in P6, under a second behind Perez’s time.

Alpine started to show promising pace on Friday in Jeddah, and that trend continued early on in final practice, with both Gasly and Ocon high up the timing tables.

With half the session remaining, the order was: Perez, Verstappen, Gasly, Ocon, Russell, Albon, Hamilton, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz.

In a similar situation to that of FP2, Charles Leclerc reported problems with his gearbox as he exited the pit lane. “I lost the first shift,” said the Monegasque, to which he received no convincing answer from the Ferrari team.

After a series of laps on race pace, the two Alpines went for it again as the session reached the 40-minute mark. Esteban Ocon had a massive snap of oversteer as he exited turn nine, just avoiding losing his A523.

Gasly improved his time ever so slightly to get just under three tenths behind Perez.

Lewis Hamilton improved his time to sit in fourth place with just under a third of the session remaining, 0.4s behind Sergio Perez’s time from early on.

The Mexican proceeded to improve his time by nearly three tenths as the session reached three-quarters of completion.

Posting his first competitive lap in what was a relatively anonymous session, Fernando Alonso got his Aston Martin up to fourth, nearly 0.5s behind Perez, and 0.85s behind Verstappen’s newly set benchmark.

With 15 minutes remaining, the order was: Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton, Alonso, Piastri – the McLaren rookie getting a decent lap to jump up the timings, and was soon followed by his team-mate Lando Norris, who slotted P6, just 0.008s ahead of the Australian.

Verstappen found even more improvement in his lap, setting a whopping time of 1:28.660 with ten minutes remaining, putting him half-a-second clear of Perez and eight tenths clear of Alonso’s Aston Martin. The Dutchman later improved again to a 1:28.495, putting him a second ahead of the Spaniard.

Ferrari was the last team to strap on a set of soft tyres for a late qualifying simulation. Charles Leclerc put in a lap that was only good enough for 10th place, a whopping 1.4s off Verstappen.

Carlos Sainz soon replaced him in 10th, five hundredths of a second. The pair improved their times again in one final run, with Leclerc moving up to sixth and Sainz remaining in tenth, both over a second off the ultimate pace ahead of qualifying hour.