Report VT3 | Russell surprisingly fastest after red flag, Verstappen fourth

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Report VT3 |  Russell surprisingly fastest after red flag, Verstappen fourth

George Russell finished the third free practice in Las Vegas fastest, after Alexander Albon caused a red flag with a crash. Oscar Piastri and Logan Sargeant surprisingly completed the top three, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez behind them. The drivers of Red Bull Racing and Ferrari wanted to sit down for a serious qualifying run, and so the result gave a distorted picture.

After the debacle of the opening day of the race weekend in Las Vegas, the normal programming was still followed, including fans in the stands. These fans saw a quiet start to the session, with Valtteri Bottas, still fifth in FP2, setting the first serious time with a 1:39.8. After eight minutes the Ferrari drivers reported on the medium tyres, with Charles Leclerc being the fastest with 1:38.9. However, this still made the Monegasque almost four seconds slower than the day before, indicating that the tires still had to warm up and the grip level was low.

The Ferrari drivers were already the fastest men over a single lap in the first practice sessions, so it was not entirely surprising that the bar was raised in later attempts on the medium rubber. Leclerc was fastest on the second lap with 1:36.5, while Carlos Sainz hit back in the third attempt with a 1:35.9. However, Leclerc had encountered Kevin Magnussen on his fast lap, and regained first place not much later with a 1:35.9. At the top it was a matter of exchanging pennies between the Ferrari drivers, where Fernando Alonso secured an identical top three after twenty minutes with a third place as in FP2.

Red Bull relieves Ferrari at the front

Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez only entered the asphalt after twenty minutes. Both Red Bull Racing drivers immediately did so on the soft C5 tires. While Pérez did not get further than sixth place on his first attempt, Verstappen finished in P3, with a deficit of more than two tenths on the Ferrari men. The first lap is rarely if ever the fastest lap in Las Vegas, so it was to be expected that further time improvements would come.

Pérez was the first to show more of the potential in the second round, with the fastest time of the weekend: 1:35.1. Verstappen started his second fast lap a minute or two later, and with a 1:34.6 managed to put his teammate half a second behind and thus take first place for the first time. The gap to the Ferrari drivers was 1.2 seconds, although there was also a compound difference between the two teams. Pérez accelerated to 1:34.8 late in his stint, narrowing the gap to Red Bull.

Williams vs. AlphaTauri

In the fight for seventh place in the championship, Williams seems to hold the best cards for the time being. The British team saw Alexander Albon return to third place with twenty minutes to go, while Logan Sargeant also did well in sixth position. At AlphaTauri, Yuki Tsunoda was more than six-tenths slower than Albon, which put the Japanese in eighth place for the time being, while Ricciardo had not yet managed to put together a good lap. AlphaTauri is still seven points behind Williams with two weekends to go.

Albon raises the red flag

Mercedes chose not to set a serious lap time until the last twenty minutes. Remarkably, Lewis Hamilton was slower in his run than George Russell, who took over first place from Verstappen thanks to a strong middle sector, albeit with a small difference and on a track with more grip. The fact that the grip level continued to improve was evident from the many time improvements, with Albon and Alonso only a tenth behind Verstappen.

Piastri took over as leader, while Verstappen in his qualifying run went straight at the end of the straight after a blisteringly fast opening sector. Russell was faster again on his fifth hot lap on the soft tire with a 1:34.0, and with Alexander Albon taking care of the rubber on one of his Pirelli tires at the time, the session was ended early. The British Thai had ended up in the wall with his Williams, meaning that the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers had not made a serious qualifying attempt. Both Verstappen and Leclerc were just in a fast lap. Ferrari had only driven on the medium tyres.

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