AUSTRALIA: Max Verstappen, the reigning World Champion, finished in the P1 position during the final practice session of the Australian Grand Prix weekend.
The Red Bull Racing driver moved up to the top spot despite teammate Sergio Perez providing most of the session’s off-track drama.
Although there was a 40 per cent chance of rain, and teams were looking to bounce back from an interrupted Friday, Perez’s side of the garage was still empty when the session began.
Lance Stroll, who hasn’t recovered from his pre-season injuries yet, came out of the pits first, but came back in after just one lap, leaving Verstappen P1 with a time of 1:19.6 on the medium tyres.
The Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc beat Verstappen’s time by going 1-2, but Verstappen upped his pace to take the P1 spot with a time of 1:18.7 after 15 minutes.
While Verstappen continued to put in laps, his teammate Perez was stuck in the pits as mechanics worked on his RB19.
When Perez finally ventured out of the pits and onto the track, his first flying lap involved a near-miss with Nico Hulkenberg, who closed the door on the Mexican driver.
“Why did you put me in this gap?” Perez asked. His race engineer responded, “I didn’t realise he was on high fuel.” Perez struggled throughout the session with multiple off-track excursions.
The session was briefly red-flagged due to debris on the track at Turn 9, a piece of Nyck de Vries’ AlphaTauri. After the break, the drivers moved from race pace to qualifying simulations.
Sainz improved his time to 1:18.1, with Lewis Hamilton in second and Russell in third. Verstappen went fastest, a 1:17.565, with Alonso in second and Ocon in third, while neither Ferrari driver did a soft tyre qualifying run.
The session ended with another off for Perez as he took a trip through the gravel, only to enter the pits and then try to leave but ran out of time, stopping at the end of the pit lane.
Verstappen finished quickest of all drivers, with Alonso and Ocon in second and third, respectively.
Also Read: Former F1 Champion Nelson Piquet Fined for Making Racist and Homophobic Comments