Imola FP3: Piastri leads McLaren 1-2 as Perez and Alonso crash


McLaren led the way in Saturday’s final dress rehearsal before qualifying, with Oscar Piastri edging teammate Lando Norris by three tenths in a session marked by two red flag disruptions.

Fernando Alonso brought out the first stoppage with a crash in the first half of FP3 while Sergio Perez disrupted the final minutes of running with another off.

Local heroes Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were third and fourth for Ferrari, while Mercedes George Russell and Max Verstappen completed the top six, with Dutchman clouding the picture somewhat by refraining from undertaking a qualifying run on the soft tyre.


Twenty-four hours after the opening day of running at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, teams returned to the circuit with their overnight revisions, hoping that improvements would be in order.

This was especially true for Red Bull Racing after the team’s dismal Friday, with Verstappen struggling all day to control his unsettled RB20.

Once more, drivers were blessed with perfect conditions at Imola, with the track basking in 23°C ambient temperatures and a tarmac heated at 44°C.

The field headed out fitted with Pirelli’s full panache of compounds and with a soft-shod Leclerc setting the first early benchmark.

Sainz followed suit, taking over the top spot from his teammate, the Ferrari duo edging their Red Bull counter parts sporting the medium tyre.

Although Verstappen was seen testing the track limits at several corners, the Dutchman’s RB20 looked less unstable.

Speaking of unstable cars, 20 minutes into the session, Fernando Alonso lost his Aston Martin at Turn 18 – the second part of Rivazza, the Spaniard spinning and veering off into the barriers, significantly rearranging the AMR24’s rear suspension and possibly damaging its gearbox.

The red flag was brandished in short order to allow for the stricken car’s safe evacuation, while the incident guaranteed a busy few hours for Aston’s mechanics.

The session resumed after a ten-minute break, with qualifying simulations expected to take over.

Piastri, running on the softs, moved up to third position to split the Ferrari and Red Bull combo, while Mercedes looked distinctively as the fourth fastest team once again.

Both Red Bull drivers and Norris had yet to commit to the soft rubber, but a queue of cars coming out of the pitlane promised a flurry of qualifying runs on the red-rimmed rubber.

Piastri jumped to the top, the McLaren charger overhauling both Ferraris, while Russell went fourth.

Alas, Perez put a stop to proceedings when he hit the barrier coming out of Variante Alta and triggered another red flag.

The RB20 was quickly hauled out of harm’s way and the session resumed with just 2 minutes left on the clock. Save for Norris who moved up to second to make it a McLaren 1-2, there were no significant improvements amid the congestion that developed in the dying seconds.

Team papaya thus topping the final practice and positioning itself as a strong contender for pole position in Saturday’s qualifying.

Behind Sainz, Leclerc and Russell who completed the top five, followed Verstappen, who did not run on the softs, Williams Alex Albon, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Stroll and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg, with 1.018s separating the top ten.

Among those in the second half of the field, Daniel Ricciardo in P11 edged his RB teammate Yuki Tsunoda while Hamilton’s lowly P17 performance was also worth noting.

But all eyes will be on McLaren and Ferrari in qualifying, with Verstappen heading into the grid-defining session in the unusual role of the outsider. But one cannot dismiss the flying Dutchman.

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