Leclerc edges Verstappen; Vettel and Hamilton have times deleted

Image by Joe Portlock/LAT

Leclerc edges Verstappen; Vettel and Hamilton have times deleted

Formula 1

Leclerc edges Verstappen; Vettel and Hamilton have times deleted


Charles Leclerc ensured it was a Ferrari clean sweep of practice sessions at the German Grand Prix as deleted lap times became a hot topic.

Ferrari finished first and second in both of Friday’s sessions, but cooler conditions on Saturday resulted in its advantage reduced as Max Verstappen was able to secure second place. Leclerc looked quick throughout and posted a 1m12.380s to lead the way, with Verstappen 0.168s off and Sebastian Vettel a quarter of a second slower than his team-mate in third.

Vettel was one of a number of drivers to see a lap time deleted, with the stewards being particularly tough on anyone running wide exiting the first and final corners. Vettel had a lap time deleted for each turn, but his quickest attempt of 1m12.644s was legal.

The same couldn’t be said for Lewis Hamilton, who originally went fourth with a lap half a second off Leclerc and then had it deleted for running off track with all four wheels at the final corner. Hamilton’s next attempt came on used tires and left him nearly 0.6s adrift of Leclerc in sixth place.

Separating Hamilton from his teammate Valtteri Bottas was Kevin Magnussen, who excelled for Haas with a time 0.003s slower than the Finn. Magnussen was half a second off the ultimate pace and a similar margin clear of Romain Grosjean in 10th, with Ferrari-powered cars enjoying a strong final hour of practice.

Carlos Sainz was seventh for McLaren ahead of Pierre Gasly — who struggled to match Verstappen after his crash at the end of FP2 — while Kimi Raikkonen was ninth despite also having a time deleted for going off at the final corner. The Toro Rosso pair of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon similarly saw the stewards remove some of their attempts.

The relatively short lap at Hockenheim has left to an extremely close midfield battle, as just 1.4s covered the first 18 cars. Daniel Ricciardo was last of those 18 but only half a second behind Sainz in seventh as qualifying is shaping up to be a stressful session for most teams.

Ricciardo had only the Williams pair of Robert Kubica and George Russell behind him, with Kubica using a new chassis after damage was found overnight, and Russell only completing 11 laps due to a damaged floor.

Forecast rain looks less likely to hit qualifying later this afternoon, with thunderstorms predicted to hit Hockenheim in the hours following the end of track running.