F1 – Verstappen Quickest In Final Practice In Jeddah As Zhou Crashes And Bearman Takes Over From Sainz

Max Verstappen went quickest in an eventful final practice session for the 2024 FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix that saw red flags come out following a crash involving Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu and in which F2 driver Oliver Bearman stepped in at Ferrari for Carlos Sainz.

Despite suffering with a stomach complaint, Sainz drove for Ferrari in the opening two practice sessions at the Jeddah Corniche street circuit, but on Saturday morning Ferrari revealed that the Spanish driver had been diagnosed with appendicitis and that he would “require surgery”.

Eighteen-year-old Ferrari reserve driver Bearman, who put his Prema Racing on pole in F2 on Friday, was drafted in to replace Sainz “from FP3 and for the rest of this weekend” with the young Briton taking “no further part in this round of the F2 Championship”.

While Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas was first out on track at the start of the final hour of practice all eyes were on the car that followed him – Bearman’s SF-24. Bottas set the first time lap at 1:31.307 and though Bearman was initially two seconds off the Finn’s pace, he swiftly began to find a level of comfort with car and circuit and after Lewis Hamilton went quickest on Soft tyres only for Bottas to lower the Benchmark 1:30.770s, Bearman found good pace on his Medium tyres to briefly grab top sport with a lap of 1:30.277.

Hamilton, continuing with the C4 tyres, then went quicker, posting a time of 1:30.253 to close out the opening quarter of an hour.

George Russell then emerged in the other Mercedes and, also running Softs, he moved to P1 with a lap of 1:29.862 with Charles Leclerc just 0.146s behind him in P2 on Medium tyres.

It was at this point that Red Bull at last sent its cars out and Sergio Pérez immediately rose to the top of the timesheet with a 1:29.562 on Soft tyres, with Verstappen two tenths behind, also on the C4 compound.

Leclerc’s Mediums were working well however, and as the halfway mark approached his second flying lap of 1:29.206s put him in P1. His stay was short, though. Verstappen was also finding more pace on his Softs on the smooth Jeddah track surface and his second push lap resulted in a time of 1:28.893. It handed him P1 with 0.313s advantage over Leclerc. The defending champion wasn’t done, however, and holding on to the same set of tyres, he put in two cool down laps and then powered to a new best time of 1:28.412 that put him 0.794s clear of Ferrari.

The action came to a halt with 17 minutes remaining. Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu lost the rear of his car in Turn 7 and spun off backwards, smashing into the barrier on the outside of Turn 8. The Chinese driver was unhurt but his car sustained heavy damage at the rear and left-hand side of the car.

Once his stricken car had been removed the session got going with five minutes left on the clock. Russell used his final flier to climb to second but he was bounced out by Leclerc and then by Pérez who took third place, almost half a second behind his Red Bull team-mate.

Russell managed to hold on to fourth and the Mercedes driver was followed on the timesheet by McLaren’s Lando Norris, Aston Martin pair Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and in P9 Hamilton.

Bearman also managed to get in a qualifying simulation on Softs and the 18-year-old impressed with P10 in his first outing in the SF24.

2024 FIA Formula 1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:28.412  13
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:28.608 0.196 16
3 Sergio Pérez Red Bull Racing 1:28.906 0.494 13
4 George Russell Mercedes 1:28.964 0.552 17
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1:28.971 0.559 11
6 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:29.038 0.626 14
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:29.127 0.715 14
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:29.213 0.801 11
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.268 0.856 19
10 Oliver Bearman Ferrari 1:29.306 0.894 22
11 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:29.485 1.073 12
12 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:29.546 1.134 13
13 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:29.572 1.160 18
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:29.575 1.163 13
15 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:29.675 1.263 11
16 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:29.740 1.328 15
17 Alexander Albon Williams 1:29.808 1.396 13
18 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:30.083 1.671 21
19 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:30.739 2.327 12
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 2:27.994 59.582 2

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