FP3: Max Verstappen bags a practice hat-trick, over six tenths ahead of the chasing pack

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen up close in the RB19. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen up close in the RB19. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Max Verstappen claimed the practice hat-trick for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend, the Red Bull driver laying down a 1:28.485 to beat the sister Red Bull of Sergio Perez by over six tenths of a second in FP3 in Saudi Arabia.

The good news in the mix, though, is P3 to P17 were also separated by just six tenths.

The rush of drivers taking new parts from their season’s stockpile continued with news Verstappen had a new gearbox fitted in his RB19, while Nyck de Vries didn’t complete a single lap as his AT04 needed a new PU.

As the lights went green for the final practice session at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix there were no immediate takers while it was clear Sergio Perez wouldn’t be out any time soon with Red Bull carrying out set-up changes on his RB19, his mechanics seemingly in no hurry. On the other side of the garage the driver, Verstappen, wasn’t even in there such is his confidence after topping Friday’s two practice outings.

Aston Martin broke the silence as Lance Stroll ventured out, followed by Fernando Alonso. They each did a single lap on the medium tyres, scrubbing the rubber, and then pitted to swap onto hard tyres and repeated the process.

It wasn’t until 13 minutes into the session that the first lap time was recorded, a 1:32.531 from Oscar Piastri. His time up in P1 was short-lived as the action out on track began to ramp up, Pierre Gasly the next into P1 with Max Verstappen 0.006s slower than the Alpine.

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As with Friday’s first practice the full array of Pirellis were out on track, Mercedes opting for the softs as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton went 1-2 with Verstappen the only driver inside the top eight on the hard tyres while Charles Leclerc, up to P5, was on the mediums. The rest were running the red-walled softs.

Despite being on the hard tyres Verstappen jumped up into P1 and went onto lower the benchmark time to a 1:29.746. That, though, wasn’t enough to keep his team-mate at bay as Perez came flying through three-tenths faster on a set of used soft tyres.

As expected traffic was a problem with Hamilton informed it was “very busy” as he went shooting past one car and then off the track as he came flying up behind another. His team-mate Russell used the traffic to good use, grabbing a tow from Alonso as he moved up to fifth place.

Over at Ferrari, Carlos Sainz complained he was getting a lot of “derating”, the Spaniard tenth quickest on the medium tyres, one place behind his team-mate Leclerc. Another driver having car troubles was Verstappen, the FIA confirming his RB19 had been fitted with a new gearbox ahead of the session. He joined an ever-growing list, including the two Ferrari drivers, Lando Norris and his own team-mate in taking parts – and it’s only round two!

The final 20 minutes saw the traditional switch to new soft tyres as one by one the drivers did their qualifying simulations. Verstappen went quickest with a 1:28.756, 0.371s up on Perez, with Hamilton jumping up to third place with Alonso P4 in the Aston Martin.

The other Aston Martin of Stroll irked Valtteri Bottas, the Finn saying his lap had been “compromised by the Aston Martin”. Norris in turn was unhappy with Verstappen as he got in his way, the McLaren driver saying that was “dangerous”. Verstappen immediately waved his apology, and then upped his pace to a 1:28.660 to move almost half a second clear of Perez. Not done he then laid down a 1:28.485 to extend his advantage to 0.613s.

Alonso bounced back up third place, eight-tenths down, with Stroll fourth ahead of Hamilton and Leclerc. The session ended with Norris seventh, Piastri, Gasly and Sainz completing the top ten.

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De Vries, the only driver in the field who has never raced at the Jeddah circuit, didn’t put in a single lap in FP3 due to an engine issue.

AlphaTauri tweeted: “Unfortunately, we’ve detected an issue on Nyck de Vries’ car and we are now changing his PU. As a result, he won’t be participating in FP3.”


1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing 1:28.485
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.613
3 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.998
4 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.024
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.083
6 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +1.103
7 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.205
8 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.213
9 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.216
10 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +1.276
11 George RUSSELL Mercedes +1.326
12 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.432
13 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.448
14 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.468
15 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.498
16 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.550
17 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.646
18 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.832
19 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +2.312
20 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri no time