Canadian Grand Prix FP3: Verstappen restores normal order ahead of wet qualifying showdown

Mark Scott
Yuki Tsunoda struggles with the wet conditions at the Canadian Grand Prix. June 2023

AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda struggles with the wet conditions at the Canadian Grand Prix. June 2023

Max Verstappen set the pace in the final practice session as heavy rain showers continued to batter Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday afternoon.

The World Championship leader put a below-par Friday behind him to reassert his dominance ahead of what promised to be a very tricky and chaotic qualifying session.

Verstappen finished P1 with 1:23.106 set on the intermediate tyres, two tenths clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, whose team-mate Carlos Sainz had a horrible session with a crash and FIA investigation for alleged impeding.

Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magussen, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton completed a very mixed up top 10 due to the wet weather conditions.

A very wet track greeted the drivers as FP3 got underway on a murky Saturday lunchtime in Montreal. Visibility was poor as a result, drivers struggling to see through the huge rooster tails emerging from the car in front.

A common question between race engineer and driver, though, was whether the track was improving enough to switch from the full wets to the inters. It took all of 15 minutes for the first switchovers to commence.

Valtteri Bottas’ 1:28.968 on the inters, two tenths quicker than Verstappen’s previous P1 time, was a strong indication that it was time to ditch the wets, even if more rain was forecast within the final practice session.

Alonso added further weight to the intermediate tyre theory by wiping 1.4 seconds off Bottas’ best, but the rain started to get heavier again.

However, there was still time for lots of improvement up and down the FP3 timesheet, with Leclerc heading up a Ferrari 1-2 after the opening 20 minutes.

Verstappen was complaining once again about the “downshifts getting worse with every lap”, yet you wouldn’t think he was having problems as he soon shot up to the top of the standings and brought the new benchmark down to a 1:24.480 on the inters, three tenths quicker than Leclerc.

On the stroke of the halfway point of the session, the red flags were waving after Carlos Sainz crashed out. Heading into turn one, he spun out of control and took the front wing clean off his SF-23 following a hefty whack into the barrier.

It spelled a disastrous few minutes for the Spaniard, who was also placed under investigation by the FIA for alleged multiple examples of impeding coming through the final chicane.’s recommended reading

F1 live stream: Watch the Canadian Grand Prix weekend with F1 TV Pro!

Gareth Bale reveals hatred for F1 after ‘what they did to Lewis Hamilton’

The session resumed with 22 minutes left on the clock, but nearly not for long as Hamilton almost suffered the same fate as Sainz approaching Turn 1.

Meanwhile, back at the top of the timesheet, Verstappen took a seven-tenth chunk out of his previous best to extend his P1 advantage to 1.6 seconds with 10 minutes remaining in FP3.

Leclerc briefly challenged the P1 spot again but Verstappen restored natural order once again with a 1:23.106, just seconds before another heavy rain shower hit the track, unofficially ending the session five minutes earlier than scheduled.

Canadian Grand Prix: FP3 times

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:23.106
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.291
3 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +1.377
4 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.609
5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1.659
6 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.719
7 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.838
8 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.849
9 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.882
10 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.981
11 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +2.034
12 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.085
13 Lando NORRIS McLaren +2.092
14 Alexander ALBON Williams +2.273
15 George RUSSELL Mercedes +2.329
16 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +2.619
17 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +2.751
18 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +3.644
19 Esteban OCON Alpine +3.734
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +4.173