George Russell led the way in the final hour of free practice at the Las Vegas Grand Prix, as the Mercedes driver topped the timesheet in a red-flagged session in the closing minutes, preventing some from completing their races in flight.
After a shortened FP1 followed by an extended second practice session on opening day, drivers returned to the Las Vegas Strip on Friday evening for another opportunity to familiarize themselves with the new 6.201 kilometer circuit.
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The first few laps saw a range of tire compounds used, as well as occasional excursions; Zhou Guanyu was among those who suffered a lockup, with front lockup proving to be a problem for some at the circuit, while Kevin Magnussen engaged in wheel-to-wheel action with Charles Leclerc after a brief off-track during the Haas.
Some appeared to be struggling to cope with the low-grip conditions, but as the hour reached the race’s halfway mark, Leclerc appeared to continue his momentum from Thursday by trading quick laps with teammate Carlos Sainz.
Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing
It didn’t take long before Red Bull showed their hand as Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez took over at the top. Verstappen was fastest with a time of 1’34”653, still on his original set of hard tyres.
As the session progressed and the track continued to evolve, the peloton switched to the soft tires and focused on one-lap pace. A few occasional off-piste moments began to appear; even the world champion was not safe, after being taken out at turn 12 during a flying lap.
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There was drama for Alex Albon when the Williams hit the barriers in the final minutes of FP3, losing a tire in the process and bringing out red flags. It was later confirmed that the session would not resume.
This meant that Russell remained at the top of the standings with a time of 1’34”093, three tenths ahead of Oscar Piastri in second while Logan Sargeant – who himself had narrowly avoided clipping the wall – took the third place.
Verstappen and Perez ended up fourth and fifth respectively after a low-key day for Red Bull on Thursday, while Albon was sixth ahead of Fernando Alonso in seventh and Lewis Hamilton in P8. Valtteri Bottas and Magnussen complete the top 10.
Lando Norris, 11th, was ahead of Nico Hulkenberg – with a different car specification to his teammate – in 12th, followed by Lance Stroll, Esteban Ocon and Zhou in 13th, 14th and 15th.
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Leclerc and Sainz lost out to red flags, being unable to complete their course on soft tyres. They finished the session in P16 and P17 respectively.
It was a quiet day for AlphaTauri. Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo occupied 18th and 20th places, with the Alpine of Pierre Gasly sandwiched between them.
With all of the weekend’s practice sessions completed, teams and drivers will now have one last chance to debrief and finalize their settings ahead of qualifying later, which will take place at midnight local time.
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