Leclerc leads Russell in Dutch GP final practice session


Charles Leclerc reaffirmed Ferrari's qualifying ambitions at Zandvoort by topping the third and final practice, but Mercedes' George Russell was snapping at the heels of the Monegasque in the session and ended just 0.066s behind his rival.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen concluded Saturday's dress rehearsal third, 0.161s behind the session's pace setter but the Dutchman will assuredly be a force to be reckoned with.

Behind the leading trio, Carlos Sainz, Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez completed the top six.

There was once again zero chance of rain when Saturday's final practice kicked off with a track temperature set at 29.3°C and an air temperature of 23.1°C.

Friday's opening day of running at Zandvoort was marked by Red Bull and Max Verstappen's low-key start to the latter's home race weekend.

But the bulls were in action at the outset when the lights went green, with Verstappen leading the field from the get-go on softs, with Leclerc and Hamilton in tow.

Verstappen improved on his second flyer to put 0.524s between himself and Leclerc who had also improved his time.

As the session reached its half-way point there were little changes among the front-runners, with Verstappen leading Leclerc, Hamilton, Sainz and Russell.

But there was a lull in the track action as a majority of teams regrouped ton consider set-up changes before undertaking their final practice runs.

In the Ferrari camp, Sainz, still on the softs, stepped up the pace to go fastest with a 1m11.971s that edged Verstappen by 0.225s.

But the Spaniard's lap was beaten shortly after by Leclerc and Russell, the Briton validating once again Mercedes' strong form in Holland.

Qualifying simulations on the soft tyre were now the norm, with Hamilton's best effort slotting the Briton into fourth in the running order.

But Verstappen could only manage P3 while Perez improved to sixth.

Behind the top-six, Alpine's Fernando Alonso topped the midfield runners, the Spaniard followed by Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, an impressive Mick Schumacher in P9 and by McLaren's Lando Norris who rounded off the top-ten.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen led the second half of the field from lance Stroll and Alex Albon, while Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo were all laggards in the session that was bookended once again by Williams' Nicholas Latifi.

The session thus concluded with the prospect of a battle for supremacy in qualifying between Ferrari and Mercedes, but Red Bull and its reigning world champion local hero will be determined to spoil the party!

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