Perez leads Verstappen in FP3, Leclerc causes a red flag

The Mexican, who had been decidedly off the pace on Friday, returned to Spa and cleared the way for defending champion Max Verstappen, while Carlos Sainz led the Scuderia charge into third.

Aston Martins were the first cars to hit the track, with both drivers wearing a set of medium tires to edge out Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez – the pair taking on the soft red-walled Pirellis.

Hamilton was the first to complete a lap but ran seven seconds off the final pace to leave the Alfa Romeo double act as the first to post anything like a representative lap time.

After seven minutes an hour, using a fresh set of C4 softs, Zhou Guanyu propelled himself to the top of the leaderboard with an effort of 1m47.795s.

That put him just over a tenth faster than teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Finn was the fastest rider in all of sectors one and two, but lost in the latter part of the lap.

Either way, the Alfas were initially clear by 2.2 seconds after 10 minutes – helped by Verstappen locking the front right into The Source before complaining of general tire overheating.

After 10 minutes only the Ferrari and Haas cars had yet to emerge – the Scuderia probably scrambling to save a set of tires after an unfortunate strategy that bet hard in Hungary.

As Hamilton struggled to ninth after a huge oversteer in the bus stop chicane, before Daniel Ricciardo followed suit, Aston Martins took third and fourth, led by Lance Stroll.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

Photo by: Andy Hone/ Motorsport footage

Kevin Magnussen finally emerged after 21 minutes, with the Dane suffering an electrical fault in FP1, but on his exit the other Haas was called back to the pits – with the team spotting a problem for Mick Schumacher after just six laps of racing.

But Magnussen was right on the pace, running third on a series of softs to lap just two-tenths behind Zhou thanks to the fastest run of anyone through S2 at that point.

It would take another four minutes before the Ferraris finally hit the track, with Sainz soon topping the standings thanks to his qualifying simulation in 1m46.461s on softs.

Leclerc was four tenths slower than his team-mate after the first test, the Monegasque was given a heavy grid penalty for engine and gearbox changes with Lando Norris, Schumacher, Zhou and Verstappen.

Red Bull responded as Perez lapped in 1m45.972s to run half a second quicker but Verstappen would remain just 12th after locking himself into the bus stop chicane.

He then reversed completely under instruction, having supposedly missed a yellow flag for Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri passing through Blanchimont.

The defending champion would be investigated for this but was cleared before the end of the session.
That interruption prompted Verstappen to race again, having set the fastest time of anyone in the second sector – the twisty run from Combes to Stavelot.

So with 20 minutes to go, Verstappen put together an improved run to move fastest over his teammate by 0.5 seconds and a full 1 second ahead of Sainz as the Red Bull RB18s came out on top.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75

Photo by: Erik Junius

Ferrari’s retaliation was then ruined by Leclerc crashing to bring out a red flag. His F1-75 broke while turning in Les Fagnes and he spun over the gravel to hit the outer wall of the tire – although he appeared to escape with no apparent damage.

Despite Leclerc recovering soon after, the red flag went off very quickly to cause a three-minute stoppage.

When the session resumed for a final shootout, Verstappen improved to 1m45.184s on the line thanks to his work in sectors two and three.

But Perez’s final superior run in the first part of the lap saw him take FP3 bragging rights over a 1m45.047s to clear the way for a tenth over Sainz.

Norris finished fourth ahead of Fernando Alonso, while Mercedes’ best comeback was George Russell in sixth as Leclerc was limited to seventh.

Behind Sebastian Vettel in eighth – the AMR22 slowed down on the recovery lap with the powertrain going into limp mode before restarting – Esteban Ocon raced in ninth.

However, the alpine racer complained that Sainz held him up across Eau Rouge to ruin an improved lap.

Gasly finished 10th ahead of Ricciardo, Hamilton and the two low downforce Williams – Nicholas Latifi edging out Alex Albon with the fastest run of the session in the high-speed first sector.

Results Belgian F1 GP – FP3

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