Perez leads Leclerc in third Miami Grand Prix practice

Glenn Dunbar/Motorsport Images

Perez leads Leclerc in third Miami Grand Prix practice

Formula 1

Perez leads Leclerc in third Miami Grand Prix practice

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Red Bull’s Sergio Perez beat Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to the top spot in a sweltering final practice ahead of qualifying for the Miami Grand Prix.

The Mexican set his fastest lap with less than five minutes on the clock, with a rapid final sector in particular taking him to a best time of 1m30.304s, bettering Leclerc’s best by just 0.194s.

Leclerc struggled with his first flying lap on softs when the track was at its hottest, the soft Pirelli rubber squirming as the asphalt topped out at around 130 degrees F, but a late flier as conditions cooled by almost 15 degrees F unlocked more time, popping him into second.

Max Verstappen was third but was set to take top spot with his final lap when he clattered the inside curb at Turn 14 and lost control of his Red Bull. Only a hard pump of the brakes saved the Dutchman from the wall, grinding the car to a halt awkwardly in the middle of the track. He was able to return to pit lane unscathed and with the third-best time.

It completed a decent turnaround from his difficult Friday on which he completed just five flying laps thanks to a series of technical problems.

But Mercedes’s pace seemed to disappear after a strong opening day. After topping FP2, George Russell languished in 17th and 1.6s off the pace. Lewis Hamilton fared only marginally better in 15th and 1.5s adrift.

The team’s performance runs came earlier in the hour, when the track was hotter and less competitive, and the car seemed to be visibly struggling to extract grip over a series of scrappy laps. The W13 was also noticeably bouncing more significantly than it had been on Friday.

In the absence of the Silver Arrows it was Fernando Alonso who slipped into fourth at 0.732s off the pace, beating Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel by 0.013s and a strong Mick Schumacher, who took his Haas car to within just 0.001s further adrift.

Carlos Sainz completed a much-needed clean hour with his Ferrari after his Friday crash to finish seventh on the time sheet and with the equal second most laps of the session, making up for time lost in FP2 yesterday.

Kevin Magnussen set his flying lap late but couldn’t get closer than 0.2s behind teammate Schumacher for eighth. Alex Albon followed in ninth for Williams, with Lando Norris completing the top 10 for McLaren. Yuki Tsunoda followed in 11th ahead of Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo in the second McLaren.

Valtteri Bottas was 14th, his 26 laps the most of any driver of the session after missing most of Friday thanks to a crash in FP1. His car was equipped with another turbocharger and MGU-H as part of the repairs.

Hamilton followed in 15th ahead of Pierre Gasly and Russell, with Zhou Guanyu and Nicholas Latifi propping up the time sheet.

Esteban Ocon didn’t set a lap time, having crashed heavily just 15 minutes into the session at Turn 14.

The Frenchman lost control of the rear of his Alpine exiting Turn 13. The car swapped ends and slammed right-side-first into the outside wall and slid up to Turn 14, coming to rest in almost exactly the same spot as Sainz’s car yesterday afternoon. The session was suspended for around 12 minutes.

Ocon was cleared of injury at the medical center; the team will now race to repair the car before qualifying just two hours after the end of the session.

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