Max Verstappen beat Red Bull Racing teammate Sergio Perez to top spot in FP3 to sweep all three Saudi Arabian practice sessions ahead of qualifying tonight.
Perez had held top spot for much of the hour thanks to an early run on the soft tires, but a late blast on fresh rubber for Verstappen blew the Mexican’s best time out of the water by 0.613s with a time of 1m28.485s.
Other than requiring a new gearbox before the session, the only blot on his afternoon was a near accident with Lando Norris, who almost ran into the back of the Red Bull Racing car around a blind corner while the Verstappen slowed on a cool-down lap.
Fair play Max 🤝
The Dutchman accidentally found himself in the way of an incoming Lando Norris, and made sure to apologise after 👍#SaudiArabianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/cnlwDvz9sD
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 18, 2023
“It’s dangerous what these guys do — that could have been a massive crash,” Norris said over team radio, while Verstappen blasted his engineer for not warning him of the rapidly closing McLaren.
The stewards noted the incident but decided against opening an investigation.
Fernando Alonso was third in his Aston Martin but well behind the leader, at 0.998s off the pace — though the gap was similarly large in the daylight of FP1 on Friday before shrinking markedly in the more representative conditions of the night-time FP2 session.
His teammate Lance Stroll followed just 0.026s further back, in turn beating Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes by 0.059s in a tight battle for best of the rest.
Charles Leclerc was the fastest Ferrari, taking sixth spot after a last-minute lap on fresh softs, but it was good enough for only 1.103s off Verstappen’s benchmark. He was closely matched with teammate Carlos Sainz after their first laps, but the Spaniard got caught in traffic on his second attempt, leaving him 10th.
McLaren looked unexpectedly impressive, with Norris and Oscar Piastri split by just 0.008s in seventh and eighth ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly in ninth.
George Russell was a lowly 11th in the second Mercedes, just over 01.s quicker than Zhou Guanyu in the unfancied Alfa Romeo.
Nico Hulkenberg was the quickest Haas car, taking 13th ahead of Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine car.
Williams teammates Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant were split by just 0.052s to finished 15th and 16th respectively ahead of Kevin Magnussen.
Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda were slowest in the session, though the last-placed Japanese driver didn’t use the soft tire at all during the hour, sticking instead to the medium compound with a view to the race — and perhaps expecting to be knocked out in Q1.
His teammate, Nyck de Vries, wasn’t fielded in the session while his mechanics changed the Honda power unit in the back of his car ahead of qualifying.