Red Bull's Perez tops final practice session in Baku

© XPB 

F1's battle for supremacy in Baku remained an exclusive affair between Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc in Saturday's final practice session.

The Red Bull driver had the last word, edging his Ferrari rival by 0.07s, while Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz completed the front-running quartet.

Barrier damage that had occurred on the final lap of the F2 sprint race required some extensive repairs which led to a delayed start for the final dress rehearsal before qualifying.

But the delay appeared to suit the Mercedes camp where mechanics were still working on the team's car.

Fifteen minutes after the hour, the session kicked off with Aston Martin's Lance Stroll heading out first on the track amid warmer temperatures than Friday and conditions that were closer to what everyone is expected for race day.

However, there was no rush to get started for the majority of the field, although both Mercedes drivers were in action at the outset, eager to resume their work and efforts to try and mitigate the W13's porpoising issues which remain painfully present.

And George Russell jumped to the top of the timesheet but the Briton was quickly outdone by both Ferrari drivers as everyone upped the pace on the soft tyre.

But the Mercedes driver pressed on and inserted himself between the two red racers, only to be overhauled by Perez. The Red Bull driver pushed on further and sprung to the front, edging Leclerc by 0.245s.

Meanwhile, Verstappen finally got his session underway, having sat out the first 30 minutes, and clocked in second, just 0.052s behind Perez.

As the track rubbered in, times continued to fall and changes at the front were fast and furious between the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers, with Leclerc taking charge ahead of Verstappen, Perez and Sainz.

But with eight minutes left on the clock, Perez once again knocked the Monegasque off the top spot and had the last word in the Red Bull/Ferrari battle.

The Mexican thus heads into qualifying as the fastest man in free practice, followed by Leclerc, Verstappen and Sainz.

McLaren's fortunes took a turn for the better in FP3, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo concluding the session P5 and P6, just ahead of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly.

Russell was the fastest Mercedes driver in P8, but there was little sign of improvement reltive to Friday, with Hamilton ending FP3 a lowly 12th.

Finally, Alpine's Esteban Ocon and Aston, Sebastian Vettel rounded off the top ten.

Due to the session's delay, and to the rules stating that qualifying cannot start less than two hours after the end of FP3, this afternoon's grid-defining session will kick off 15 minutes later than scheduled.

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