Max Verstappen puts pressure on Mercedes: the Dutchman was the fastest in the third free practice session of the Saudi Arabian GP. Max with soft tires took an amazing 1’28 “100 at an average of 253 km / h! Red Bull has been looking for a flying lap since yesterday and has reaped the fruits of his work, resulting in the only car that manages to take advantage of the softer compound and if we exclude Lewis Hamilton, second, we find four Honda-powered single-seaters in the top five.
What does all this mean? Probably that the Japanese have already given the qualifying mapping to Red Bull and AlphaTauri, while Mercedes will use Lewis’ super-engine only in the final qualifying. Hamilton left 214 thousandths to his rival for the world championship: the Star should not worry because the hepta-champion took his performance with hard tires, but the Englishman, once he switched to soft, was unable to improve his time , revealing a difficulty of the W12 with soft tires. Is it an alarm to the predicted supremacy of the black arrows or is it still pre-tactical?
Among other things, Hamilton created dangerous blockages twice while he was in the cooling lap: first with Pierre Gasly who went straight to turn 1 and then with Nikita Mazepin who risked being “pressed” into the wall because Lewis has tightened his trajectory too much (his engineer didn’t warn him and he was surprised). There were no flags and the race direction gave the feeling of wanting to turn a blind eye. A serious mistake, because the traffic problem will be the problem of qualifying in the points of the track that are blind for the drivers.
Mercedes could try to qualify with the medium (which they will certainly use to qualify in Q2), but let’s wait to see what happens when Hamilton unleashes the super engine. Valtteri Bottas also appeared in difficulty, only seventh with the soft, seven tenths behind his teammate. There are too many strange values, to say that these are the actual values.
Sergio Perez, third, leads the train of the Honda riders with the second Red Bull in front of the incredible Yuki Tsunoda. The young samurai with the AlphaTauri is fourth by 12 thousandths and precedes the “captain” Gasly by less than a tenth, a sign that where there is risk to be taken the Japanese is second to none.
Behind Bottas sixth are the two Ferraris: Charles Leclerc returned to the front of Carlo Sainz with the SF21 perfectly rebuilt by the mechanics after yesterday’s Monegasque crash. Leclerc does not seem to have suffered from the crash and is ready to attack in qualifying. The gap between the Scuderia is considerable: the second is heavy, but the Alpine that yesterday was in front with the two drivers is back behind: Esteban Ocon is ninth and Fernando Alonso 11th.
Lando Norris got in between the two blue cars with the McLaren in pain (Daniel Ricciardo is only 14th). Positive performance by Antonio Giovinazzi 12th, approached by Kimi Raikkonen with the second Alfa Romeo.
Aston Martin does not impress 15th with Lance Stroll and 17th with Sebastian Vettel. The German was survived by George Russell’s Williams. Nicholas Latifi only precedes the two Haas with Nikita Mazepin just a stone’s throw from Mick Schumacher who has always clearly dominated him.