Verstappen narrowly leads Albon in Mexico F1 GP FP3, with home hero Perez close behind

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Max Verstappen completed his clean sweep of practice sessions at the 2023 Mexican GP by leading final practice, narrowly ahead of a very impressive Williams of Alex Albon, with Sergio Perez just behind the pair in P3.

Photo Credits: Red Bull Content Pool

Final practice for the 2023 Mexico City GP got underway in relatively cool (20 degrees Celsius ambient temperature and 40 degrees track) but sunny conditions.

Valtteri Bottas, who finished an impressive P4 for Alfa Romeo in FP2 yesterday, was the first to complete a flying lap in the final practice session, with a time of a 1:20.740 on the hard tyres putting him top of the pile in the first five minutes.

The two Ferrari’s then went out on the soft tyres, with Charles Leclerc setting a 1:19.283, just over one-and-a-half tenths clear of his team-mate Carlos Sainz, who slotted into P2 ahead of Bottas.

Yuki Tsunoda, who will start the race at the back of the grid after his AlphaTauri had a raft of power unit elements changed, managed to set a time of a 1:20.520, slotting behind the two Ferrari’s by over 1.2s.

Lando Norris dramatically slid his way out of the final corner to set a time just under a quarter of a second slower than Leclerc’s earlier benchmark, which was quickly beaten by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, with the young Briton leading his seven-time world champion team-mate by nearly six tenths, with a lap of a 1:18.644.

Pierre Gasly locked up his tyres arriving into the stadium section, missing the apex of turn 12 and clipping the kerb on the exit, which sent him into a slow spin that caused no major damage. His former team-mate, Yuki Tsunoda also struggled to get his AlphaTauri stopped heading into turn 12 shortly after, but managed to avoid spinning.

Sitting in sixth place with 18 minutes of the session gone, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri reported over the radio the “ride and rear grip are pretty terrible” in his MCL60.

George Russell was also struggling with the balance in his W14, losing the back-end through the esses in the middle sector, but managed to keep going.

With a third of the session remaining, the classified order of the top 10 was: Russell, Hamilton, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Piastri, Stroll, Ocon, Tsunoda and Gasly.

Home hero Sergio Perez set his first timed lap on the soft tyres with just over 37 minutes of the session remaining, but a lock-up into turn four cost him a lot of time, leaving him down in fifth place, over six tenths back from Verstappen, who slotted into P2, just seven hundreths back from Russell.

Kevin Magnussen reported his Haas might have a “loose wheel” over the radio, with the Dane promptly returning to the pits.

Daniel Ricciardo’s second race weekend back after his hand injury continued to go very well for the Australian, who went fourth fastest with just over half of the session remaining, just 0.59s back from Russell despite being on the slower, medium tyres.

Another driver who had an impressive Fridah was Alex Albon, and he set a time good enough for P8 in his first lap on the medium tyres, just under a tenth back from his team-mate Sargeant, who was one place ahead on the soft tyres, just three quarters of a second back from Russell’s benchmark.

Perez improved his time on his second lap to go P3 on the soft tyres, just over three-and-a-half tenths back from Verstappen’s latest lap of a 1:18.429 – the fastest of the session at that point.

Fernando Alonso, who had a difficult Friday after spinning on his soft tyre run, put his Aston Martin up to 11th place on the medium tyres as the session reached two-thirds of its duration, just under 1.5s back from Verstappen.

Fresh from scoring his first F1 point last time out in Austin, Logan Sargeant started the final runs by going third fastest in his Williams, just under three tenths back from Verstappen’s previous time – which was soon beaten by his team-mate Alex Albon, who went fastest overall and the first driver into the 1:17s, with a lap of a 1:17.957 in an impressive lap.

Esteban Ocon had a huge lock-up in his Alpine going into turn one, but managed to keep his car going through the outside grass with no major issue – although he reported he didn’t know what had caused the off.

Alfa Romeo continued to show strong form, with Bottas and Zhou going P3 and P7 respectively.

With a quarter of the session remaining, the classified order of the top 10 was: Albon, Verstappen, Bottas, Russell, Sargeant, Zhou, Perez, Ricciardo, Hamilton and Leclerc.

Lando Norris could only manage a fifth place in his McLaren, over half-a-second back from Albon, with his team-mate Oscar Piastri slotting into a disappointing P10, over a second off the pace.

Alex Albon’s time continued to look ever more impressive as the session progressed, as the two Mercedes cars of Russell and Hamilton couldn’t even get near the Thai driver’s time, slotting into P2 and P6 respectively.

Inevitably, Max Verstappen went fastest on his soft tyre lap, but with only a slim margin of seven hundreths of a second over Albon, setting a 1:17.887 in his Red Bull. The Dutchman reported over the radio he “couldn’t have had more traffic” in his lap, suggesting he has a lot of time to find.

Perez could only manage P3, behind Verstappen and Albon, with a time just under 0.15s back from the reigning world champion.

The two Ferrari cars were blocked in their final runs, with Leclerc being impeded by Kevin Magnussen’s Haas through the esses. Soon after, Sainz was impeded by Lance Stroll in much the same place, and faced much tougher consequences as he went for a spin due to the dirty air coming off the Aston Martin – the Spaniard calling for a “penalty” for the Canadian even if it is practice.

The classified order of the top 10 as the chequered flag fell was: Verstappen, Albon, Perez, Russell, Piastri, Bottas, Tsunoda, Norris, Ricciardo and Hamilton.

Bringing up the bottom half of the field were: Sargeant, Zhou, Leclerc, Stroll, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Gasly, Magnussen and Ocon.

Teams now look ahead to an important qualifying hour later on in Mexico City.

Source: Formula 1