Leclerc edges Verstappen in final free practice


Charles Leclerc upheld Ferrari's dominance so far at Hockenheim, the Monegasque clocking fastest in the final practice session, edging Red Bull's max Verstappen by 0.168s.

Sebastian Vettel was close behind despite having several lap times deleted for exceeding track limits, while Mercedes Valtteri Bottas was fourth, over half a second adrift from Leclerc.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen was an impressive fifth but Lewis Hamilton P6 reflected an unhappy session for the reigning world champion, with set-up and body work changes taking places in the Mercedes garage.

Hockenheim's sweltering days appeared to be behind it as Saturday dawned much cooler, much to the relief of the entire F1 field.

Air temperature was at 26.2ยฐC while the tarmac - at 39ยฐC - had retained some of its blazing hit from Friday.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen and Toro Rosso's Alex Albon were the first drivers to head out on to the track when the lights turned green.

Magnussen's teammate Romain Grosjean followed the pair as Haas continued to conduct its comparison between aero packages, with the Frenchman's 'old' Melbourne-spec configuration clearly offering superior performance on Friday.

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo was the first to set a time, with a 1m15.030s but McLaren's Carlos Sainz put the Aussie lap in the shade by almost a second.

Bottas preceded Hamilton out on to the track as the reigning world champion was stalled in the Mercedes garage, asking for an alternative pair of gloves.

The Brit was apparently unhappy with the size of the retro-gloves supplied by Mercedes to match its old-style "200th race" livery and period team kit.

Save for its car, the Silver Arrows garage and pit wall, with mechanics in white overalls and engineers wearing suits resembled a scene from the 1954 French Grand Prix where the might Merc squad made its F1 debut.

Once Hamilton got going however, he immediately went fastest with a 1m13.767s.

But Leclerc saw Hamilton's time and lowered it to 1m13.117s before becoming the first man to break into the 1m12s with a 1m13.726s lap.

FIA race director Michael Masi has implemented a few rules regarding track limits at Hockenheim and the first victim of the restrictions was Vettel whose time was deleted for putting all four wheels off the track on the exit of the final corner.

Spread the word, the track limits police are out in full force this weekend, and many were those who would see a lap time deleted in the session.

Vettel's second-best effort put him within half a second of Leclerc while midway through the session Verstappen overhauled Hamilton to clock in third.

Further down the order, with 15 minutes to go, Alfa's Kimi Raikkonen was P5, followed by Albon and Racing Point's Sergio Perez, not your usual mix of top midfield contenders.

Meanwhile Leclerc continued his dress rehearsal for qualifying by lowering his time to 1m12.387s. Vettel followed suit, with the German 0.257s adrift as both drivers confirmed Ferrari's impressive pace even in cooler conditions.

Behind the red duo, Bottas lined up third but the closing stages of the session encourages many to pull out the stops.

The end result saw Leclerc remain in charge, but Verstappen displacing Vettel for second. Bottas was fourth, just ahead of Haas' Kevin Magnussen.

Set-up changes and bodywork changes, not to mention a deleted lap time, left an unhappy Hamilton fifth in front of Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Raikkonen and Grosjean who rounded off the top ten.

Can Ferrari trounce Mercedes on home ground in this afternoon's shootout? Stay tunedโ€ฆ

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