Formula One: Verstappen completes practice clean sweep in the rain

AFP , Saturday 3 Jun 2023

Max Verstappen completed a clean sweep of all three practice sessions at a rainswept Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday, the defending double world champion outpacing his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez by 0.250 seconds.

Red Bull
Red Bull s Dutch driver Max Verstappen. AFP


The championship leader clocked an early fastest time in one minute and 13.664 seconds to set the pace and as rain followed it remained unchallenged for the rest of a mostly meaningless session.

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes, but without any suggestion that he was happy with overnight set-up changes to his car.

Local heroes Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso were fourth and fifth for Ferrari and Aston Martin ahead of George Russell in the second Mercedes, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo and Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.

Lando Norris was 10th for McLaren.

The session began with dark clouds threatening before the rain arrived and Red Bull doing their usual thing by topping the times in the brief dry running with Verstappen topping Perez by 0.25 seconds in 1:13.664.

It meant little as the conditions changed with Hamilton, testing his overnight set-up changes and reporting that ‘drivability is still not great’ after going third four-tenths down on the pace.

As the conditions deteriorated after 10 minutes, Williams’ American rookie Logan Sargeant lost control at the fast final corner and went off into a gravel trap after hitting the barriers.

His excursion marked the arrival of steady rain and was followed by a stewards’ note summoning Haas team boss Guenther Steiner to meet the stewards and explain his call for professional permanent stewards after Nico Hulkenberg was controversially penalised in Monaco.

The Italian criticised ‘laymen’ stewards after Hulkenberg was punished for a move on Sargeant at the start of last Sunday’s race.

Norris, Russell and both Ferraris were among those who ventured out to test the conditions as the rain relented. “It feels quite dry,” said Alpine’s Albon while Russell reported that “it’s definitely raining, but it just doesn’t seem that wet”.

As most drivers went to test intermediates, Alonso and Hamilton were among those who stayed in their team garages waiting, it seemed, for more precise dry or wet conditions.

With six minutes remaining, Norris chose to risk it – knowing that any error might wreck his qualifying later – and went out on soft slicks to clock a lap that was eight seconds down on his best, but quicker than those on intermediates.

Encouraged by his example, the rest ventured out, but without much sign of any improvements. “I don’t really feel comfortable here pushing in these conditions,” said Verstappen. “It’s a waste.”

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