Max Verstappen completed a clean sweep of topping practice sessions for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah, going over half a second faster than team mate Sergio Perez.
The reigning world champion set the fastest time of the weekend with a 1’28.485 on the soft tyres to go quickest in the final hour of running, over six tenths ahead of Perez. Fernando Alonso was again third-fastest for Aston Martin, but almost a full second slower than Verstappen’s best.
As the final session of the weekend to be take place in sunlight, it was not the most representative conditions for teams to prepare for qualifying, with track temperatures well over 40C. As such, it was a very quiet start to the opening hour with only five drivers setting times in the first quarter of an hour.
Eventually, Aston Martin sent out both Lance Stroll and Alonso on medium tyres. After steady out-laps, both drivers returned to the pits where they were switched onto hard tyres, then sent back out for a second lap before returning to the pits once more.
Nyck de Vries, the only driver in the field never to have raced around the Jeddah circuit before, was struck with the frustrating news that his AlphaTauri team had discovered a problem with his car which necessitated the team changing his power unit, meaning he would miss the entire session.
Oscar Piastri was first to break the silence, venturing out to set the first timed lap of the day with a 1’32.351. That prompted a pack of cars to take to the track, with the two Mercedes of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton moving to the top of the times. They were soon replaced by Verstappen, who became the first driver to go under the 90-second barrier in the session with a 1’29.882 on hard tyres, a quarter of a second quicker than Pierre Gasly’s Alpine on the softs.
Perez then lowered the quickest time of the weekend so far with a 1’29.417 on the soft tyres to replace his Red Bull team mate at the top of the times. Hamilton attempted to improve on his personal best time but was forced to abandon a flying lap attempt after coming across Stroll’s Aston Martin at the apex of turn 16.
With 15 minutes remaining, Verstappen bolted on a set of soft tyres and set by far the fastest time of the weekend with a 1’28.756 to go to the top of the times. After backing off, Verstappen inadvertently held up Lando Norris through turn eight. While Norris complained over team radio about the “dangerous” move, Verstappen pulled alongside the McLaren driver on…
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