Formula One: Verstappen shades Hamilton in Barcelona final practice

AFP , Saturday 8 May 2021

Formula One:

Red Bull's Max Verstappen finally got the better of the men from Mercedes at the third attempt in practice when clocking the fastest lap in Saturday's closing session for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Eclipsed by Valtteri Bottas in the first session and Lewis Hamilton in the second, Verstappen rose to the top of the times ahead of what promises to be an evenly contested qualifying session.

The Dutch driver, eight points adrift of Hamilton in the drivers' standings, was 0.235sec too quick for the seven-time world champion, with Ferrari duo Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and Bottas completing the top five.

With less than a second separating Verstappen from Esteban Ocon's Alpine in 13th place the fight for the top of the grid for Sunday's race should be intense.

Hamilton has strong ties with this race, having won it for the past four years, and five in total, and is in pursuit of his 100th pole after being denied that milestone by his teammate Bottas in Portugal last week.

Qualifying gets under way at 1300GMT.

The importance of a prime front row seat on Sunday at a circuit not known for its abundance of overtaking opportunities is borne out by past results -- 22 of the past 30 winners have occupied pole position.

Third practice session times:

Max Verstappen (NED/Red Bull-Honda) 1:17.835 (11 laps), Lewis Hamilton (GBR/Mercedes) 1:18.070 (14), Charles Leclerc (MON/Ferrari) 1:18.308 (17), Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/Ferrari) 1:18.410 (18), Valtteri Bottas (FIN/Mercedes) 1:18.423 (15), Lando Norris (GBR/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:18.494 (14), Pierre Gasly (FRA/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:18.535 (17), Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/McLaren-Mercedes) 1:18.582 (21), Kimi Räikkönen (FIN/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:18.597 (18), Sergio Pérez (MEX/Red Bull-Honda) 1:18.606 (16), Fernando Alonso (ESP/Alpine-Renault) 1:18.662 (18), Yuki Tsunoda (JPN/AlphaTauri-Honda) 1:18.673 (21), Esteban Ocon (FRA/Alpine-Renault) 1:18.700 (15), Lance Stroll (CAN/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:18.877 (18), George Russell (GBR/Williams-Mercedes) 1:19.005 (17), Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/Alfa Romeo-Ferrari) 1:19.214 (19), Sebastian Vettel (GER/Aston Martin-Mercedes) 1:19.363 (18), Nicholas Latifi (CAN/Williams-Mercedes) 1:19.392 (16), Mick Schumacher (GER/Haas-Ferrari) 1:19.999 (17), Nikita Mazepin (RUS/Haas-Ferrari) 1:20.237 (15),

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