until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

McLaren fastest in FP3 but Perez shunt clouds the true picture

by Ben Anderson
3 min read

It’s difficult to get a proper read on form heading into Emilia Romagna Grand Prix qualifying, as the business end of final practice at Imola was interrupted by Sergio Perez’s clumsy crash at the Variante Alta chicane.

What we can say is it potentially looks like three teams in contention for pole, as Red Bull seems to have closed the gap since Friday.

McLaren should have been fastest outright on Friday, but for Lando Norris running wide at the end of his final flying lap in FP2, and that was put right with a one-two result in FP3.

Oscar Piastri topped the session, and his best lap was half a second clear of the quickest non-McLaren, but he was the only one of the frontrunners to complete his qualifying simulation before Perez shunted by clouting the raised 'sausage' kerb too aggressively and nosing his RB20 into the barrier.

Norris was the only one to squeeze a proper lap out of the final two minutes after Perez crashed, as traffic spoiled laps for both Ferraris and prevented Max Verstappen even making it to the finish line to start his flier before the chequered flag flew.

That Norris lap put him second, exactly three tenths down on Piastri’s 1m15.529s best.

So, because McLaren got a clearer run, the Ferraris set their best soft-tyred laps much earlier in the session, and neither Red Bull managed to get a lap in on the soft tyre, we just don’t know how they all compare to each other.

What we can say is that Red Bull seems to have improved the car after Verstappen’s nightmare Friday. He and Norris lapped inside the same tenth using the medium tyre early in FP3.

And Carlos Sainz also looked a lot happier with the balance of his updated Ferrari. He did two laps quicker than team-mate Charles Leclerc during that early-session soft-tyre running for Ferrari, and the two were separated by just 0.020s in the final classification.

George Russell also snuck a fast lap in on the soft just before Perez crashed, enough to put Mercedes inside the top five overall, but both he and Lewis Hamilton were questioning the ride quality of the W15 during FP3, and in terms of representative comparisons look likely to be fighting Yuki Tsunoda’s RB and the Aston Martins in qualifying rather than challenging the top six.

Aston Martin is also difficult to get a proper read on, given both cars began the session on the hard tyre and then Fernando Alonso crashed at the final corner before getting a run on the soft tyre.

Lance Stroll’s only lap on the C5 compound was OK, but almost a tenth down on what Alex Albon’s Williams and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine both produced at roughly the same point in the session.

Tsunoda’s impressive pace on the medium tyre - 1m16.668s - suggests he will be a factor in the top 10 qualifying battle if his pace can translate to the softest compound.

It obviously looks close between Williams and Alpine, while Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas was representatively less than a tenth off the pace set by Albon and Ocon in that group.

Valtteri Bottas’s Sauber too was less than a tenth-and-a-half further back from the Haas, so the battle to escape Q1 among the second group of five teams looks potentially very tight indeed.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks