Russell edges Piastri in final practice in Las Vegas

© XPB 

George Russell topped the final practice session before qualifying in Las Vegas, the Mercedes charger edging McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and the Williams of Logan Sargeant.

The session was red flagged and cut short by a few minutes following an off by Alex Albon in which the latter lost a tyre, forcing the Anglo-Thai racer to park his FW45 which halted the session.

Behind the top-three, Max Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez rounded off the top five.

Ferrari were early leaders in the session, and there was no doubting the Scuderia’s speed although Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ended FP3 well down the order as the pair focused on set-up work in the second half of the session.

After yesterday’s truncated FP1, things fell in line for the teams in the wee hours of Friday thanks to an extended 90-minute session. But overall, everyone was still missing a bit of running time as the final practice kicked off, with the hope of a 60-minute workout.

As the green flag was deployed, track temperature were at 18.8C, with air temperatures slightly lower at 17.C. And for good measure, chance of rain was 0%.

Oscar Piastri was the first driver to head out, followed by his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, with the pair quickly followed by their colleagues from Alfa Romeo, Mercedes and Ferrari.

Valtteri Bottas laid down the first benchmark but the Finn’s 1m39.875s flyer on the soft tyre was outdone in short order by Leclerc and Sainz. However, times were still over 3.5 seconds off yesterday’s best.

Bottas rotated back to the top but again, Ferrari’s daring duo recouped what they felt was rightfully there’s.

Twenty minutes into the session and Verstappen finally graced the track with his presence, and the Dutchman’s first effort was good enough for P3.

In the meantime, Leclerc had progressively lowered the benchmark down to a 1m35.908s. But as the Red Bull’s got going, Perez seized the lead before Verstappen posted a 1m34.653s, thus becoming the first driver to set a sub 1m35s lap on the Las Vegas circuit.

Behind the bulls, Alex Albon slotted his Williams into third, 0.985 adrift from Verstappen but ahead of the two Ferraris. Meanwhile, Albon’s teammate Logan Sargeant came within millimetres of smashing the wall at Turn 5.

Over at Mercedes, Hamilton and Russell were slow starters but as they upped the pace the pair entered the top ten, with the latter snatching third. However, a good effort from Fernando Alonso with 15 minutes to go in the session demoted the Mercedes driver from P3 to P4.

But on his third push lap, taking advantage of the track’s rapid evolution, Russell sprung to the top, outpacing Verstappen by 0.068s.

Williams drivers hammered in another pair of impressive laps that pushed Albon back into third while Sargeant was seventh.

But out of nowhere, Piastri popped to the top to claim the lead with a 1m34.491s that was 0.094s clear of Russell. There was definitely some good pace coming out of the McLaren after yesterday’s subdued performance.

With the track’s three sectors belonging to three different drivers, positions remained wide open as Sargeant demonstrated when he propelled himself up to P3.


It was a different story however for the American’s teammate who became the first driver to hit the wall, Albon running wide at Turn 5 and losing his left rear tyre in the process.

The Williams charger was forced to park it a little further down the road, which brought out the red flag and a premature end to the session with minutes left on the clock.

Russell therefore had the privilege of topping the final dress rehearsal before qualifying from Piastri, Sargeant, Verstappen and Perez, with Albon, Alonso, Hamilton, Bottas and Magnussen completing the top ten.

In the second half of the field, one noted the presence of both Alpines, while Leclerc and Sainz concluded the session a lowly P16 and P17.

However, having set their fastest times on the medium tyre, there was no disputing the Scuderia drivers’ outright pace which they should put to good use in qualifying.

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter