Verstappen beats Leclerc for first place in final practice
After FP2 was largely devoted to Pirelli tire testing in 2023, the final hour-long practice session meant teams had more race data collection work than usual to get past that. final adjustments and qualification simulation efforts.
here Ferrari faced another problem, as a problem aboard Leclerc’s car only meant carlos sainz finished the race at high fuel for the Scuderia – although Verstappen was the only Red Bull rider to do the same as Sergio Perez focused on flight efforts throughout FP3.
Zhou duly set the benchmark for first place at 1m39.735s, which Bottas immediately beat with a 1m39.042s, with the pair using the soft tires from the start.
They were quickly usurped by the early riders of the former – Sainz coming next on the mediums and being the fastest with a 1m38.591s.
Then came Perez, who took the lead with a big .978 gain on the red-walled rubber, before Leclerc grabbed top spot with his 1m37.471 opening effort using the softs.
Verstappen was also on that rubber, as was Perez, with the world champion positioning himself just behind Leclerc 0.065 seconds behind.
After a trip to the pits, the four Ferrari and Red Bull drivers went for a second mock qualifying effort – with Sainz still running the mediums alone.
Leclerc improved on the first-place benchmark to 1m37.083s before Verstappen, following close behind, took a 1m36.706s lead, with Perez remaining third despite setting a personal best with his second free-lap attempt.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport pictures
Now slightly behind team-mate and rivals Red Bull, Sainz finished the opening 15 minutes second behind Verstappen 0.188 seconds slower on the slower medium tyres.
While the Red Bull drivers stayed in the pits after the first two runs on the softs, Leclerc pulled away and jumped to second place just before the 20-minute mark was reached – closing in on 0.059s behind Verstappen with a purple final sector.
After returning to the pits, the two Red Bulls went on different schedules – Verstappen completing a high-fuel race data collection run, Perez securing a third qualifying simulation effort.
He used that extra run on the softs to get back in the lead on a 1m36.578s, which came at the expense of Hamilton who had a few seconds earlier just past the 25-minute mark fastest on a 1m36. 688s before being pulled back to 0.110s back in a second.
As Sainz joined Verstappen on a high-speed lap in the next phase of the session, Perez completed two slow recovery laps on his softs before attempting another flying fourth.
But after establishing a series of purple mini-sectors at the start of sector one, he lost time and eventually gave up on the trick, confirming Leclerc’s earlier suggestion on Ferrari team radio that softs aren’t ” here for a spin” around the high-energy Austin layout.
After a lull just after halfway, during which Ferrari revealed in a radio message to Sainz that Leclerc had an issue that prevented him from completing a corresponding high-fuel race on the softs, the Mercedes pair have had to drop the flyers on the softs after moments at turns 1 and 12 respectively.
Russell avoided huge oversteer in the first corner, while Hamilton’s problem was understeer, after which he decided to back off.
After doing the lap, Russell pulled away and jumped from ninth to sixth to start the final third of the session, while Hamilton took a very slow recovery lap after his moment of understeer before mounting his next effort.
He exploded in the first purple sector, but a small lock-up in turn 12 at the end of the long straight sent him back, then a moment of wild off-roading on the curbs coming out of the penultimate corner in descent meant that he again chose to give up.
At the start of the final 15 minutes, the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers reappeared for a final round of qualifying effort.
Verstappen and Leclerc both gave up their opening laps on their final set of softs – the first after sliding deep and briefly lifting off at Turn 1.
After returning to the tour to start over, Verstappen finally ended Perez’s long reign at the top of the times with a 1m36.223s despite the Dutchman having to catch a big side slap just as he cut the power off the last bend to start its flyer. .
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB18
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport pictures
This is where Leclerc unraveled at the end of his final effort in the air – the Ferrari driver going from a purple first sector to a second 0.010s of drift after having to catch an oversteer slide on the final corner after having done the same in the penultimate corner as well.
After that, Sainz moved up to third after finally finishing a soft flyer, with Hamilton briefly outpacing Perez in fourth before the Mexican driver moved back into the lead with his final lap in the dying moments.
Here Leclerc came back ahead of Verstappen with a 1m36.145s – quashing his earlier claim of softs durability – although perhaps with less fuel on board at this stage so close to qualifying.
Indeed, after his own recovery tour, Verstappen made one more effort in the last minute and set the fastest times in all three sectors and thus passed FP3 with a 1m35.835s which put him 0.320s behind. ahead of Leclerc and Sainz 0.446s behind. .
Behind Perez and Hamilton was Alonso, who narrowly escaped as he ran into second-placed Red Bull at the start of the Esses on his final lap, for which the slow Perez apologized on his team radio.
Daniel Ricardo necessary McLaren to fix a brake problem he couldn’t spot on his data en route to 15th, with Mick Schumacher 19th after missing much of the session due to a transmission problem in his Haas in the early laps.
Haas initially thought the fix would last 15 minutes, but Schumacher couldn’t back out and eventually set a timed lap until the session neared its final 10 minutes.
It was even better than what Zhou finally got, as he only had three laps left on the board due to an unspecified issue that confined him to the Alfa garage after the setup laps.
Results F1 United States Grand Prix – FP3