Max Verstappen was the man to beat in final practice for the Dutch GP as Carlos Sainz added to the growing red flag list as he binned it at the banked Turn 3.
Alfa Romeo had a different driver in the car for final practice, Robert Kubica called up after Kimi Raikkonen tested positive for Covid-19 and had to self-isolate.
It is the Polish driver’s first grand prix since 2019 and, as to be expected, he was the first man out on track, needing to get as much time in the car as possible. A 1:15.854 was his opening gambit.
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That was beaten almost immediately by Lewis Hamilton. Powered by a new Mercedes engine after Friday’s oil system failure, he clocked a 1:12.010. With three laps in the opening five minutes he was officially equal to the number of laps he managed the entire Friday afternoon.
After a brief stop in the pits, Hamilton was back out on track while his title rival, Max Verstappen, opted to remain in the Red Bull garage. Lando Norris moved up to second place, a tenth off Hamilton’s pace, with Daniel Ricciardo P3. Surprisingly given Friday’s red flags, only seven drivers posted times in the first 10 minutes.
Sebastian Vettel, another driver who had car troubles on Friday, got it wrong at Turn 10. A big snap of of mid-corner oversteer sent him into the gravel, but somehow he kept it out of the barrier. The same cannot be said of Carlos Sainz.
“Sorry guys, I don’t know what happened,” he said after hitting the barrier at Turn 3. He lost the rear of his SF21 out of Turn 2 and instead of going left into the banked Turn 3, he hit the barrier. Both the front and rear of the car damaged.
The red flags were out with Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas the only two drivers without times on the board. Fernando Alonso was up in P1 with a 1:11.705.
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The green light was back on with 29 minutes remaining and Verstappen joining his rivals with a set of mediums bolted onto his RB16B. His first flying lap was a 1:11.217. Bottas on the soft tyres was 0.008s quicker to go P1. Verstappen hit back with a 1:10.702, half a second quicker than Bottas’ soft tyre lap.
With drivers swapping to the soft tyres in the final 20 minutes, Alonso went quickest with a 1:10.670 while Norris moved up to third place, and then visited the gravel at Turn 9, and Esteban Ocon went fourth, the latter reporting a “deployment problem at Turn 11”.
Bottas was the next to move up to P1, Hamilton also improving but only as far as second, before Verstappen went purple, purple and purple to top the timesheet with 1:09.623. “I guess last sector won’t get any better than that” was the Dutchman’s verdict after receiving quite a helpful tow in the process.
Kubica was 19th fastest, 2.5 seconds off the pace. He was ninth-tenths behind his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi.
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:09.623 12 laps
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.556s 16 laps
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.794s 21 laps
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.903s 19 laps
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.047s 15 laps
6 Lando Norris McLaren 1.158s 18 laps
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.219s 18 laps
8 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.249s 19 laps
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.273s 18 laps
10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.382s 20 laps
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.390s 18 laps
12 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1.460s 18 laps
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.557s 22 laps
14 George Russell Williams 1.651s 19 laps
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.676s 19 laps
16 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 2.317s 5 laps
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 2.357s 28 laps
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas 2.513s 22 laps
19 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo Racing 2.539s 27 laps
20 Mick Schumacher Haas 2.743s 19 laps