Having headed the opening pair of practice sessions on Friday, Verstappen showcased more excellent pace on Saturday afternoon with early hard tyre runs, prior to a flurry of laps on the softest compound that culminated in his headline 1m28.485s time.
This was well clear of fellow Red Bull driver Perez, and despite the Mexican’s improvement ahead of the final five minutes, the resultant 1m29.098s was still considerably far away from Verstappen’s efforts.
Aston Martin was the only willing participant in a slow opening 10 minutes to the session which, despite being considerably more overcast compared to Friday’s running, was still pegged at 27 degrees C.
Neither set a competitive laptime, as Stroll struggled with a radio issue, before the deadlock was broken 10 minutes in with the appearance of the McLarens, Nico Hulkenberg, and the Alpines.
Oscar Piastri kicked off proceedings with a 1m32.531s, but was brushed aside by Hulkenberg’s 1m32.449s. Pierre Gasly then catapulted his car to the top of the shortened timesheets with a 1m30.718s, joined by Alpine team-mate Esteban Ocon, before the two were split by a lap from Verstappen – who ran on the hard tyre relative to the Alpine duo’s softs.
The Mercedes duo then emerged and sprung to the top of the pile; George Russell logged a 1m30.476s on soft boots and edged Lewis Hamilton by just 0.016s.
Gasly vaulted to the top again with a 1m30.161s, before Verstappen hammered in a 1m29.882s to continue his impressive pace on the hardest compound to throw down the gauntlet to the rest of the field.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
His former team-mate Gasly got close with a 1m29.935s on another run with softs before Verstappen extended his lead by just over a tenth, but Sergio Perez swung in with a 1m29.417s to eclipse his team-mate by three tenths of a second.
Continuing on his hard tyres, Verstappen closed the gap down to 0.132s having improved his run during the middle sector of the lap, but could not chisel Perez away from first place.
Russell then looked good to challenge to the front-runners after setting the fastest opening sector, but lost time in the subsequent sectors on the soft tyres and emerged behind the Alpines on the timing board.
There was little change in the order over the next 15 minutes as teams waited for the track temperature to fall towards the end of the session. Once the track fell below 40 degrees, Gasly was able to bolt on new softs and…
Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Autosport.com – Formula 1 – Stories…