George Russell tops final practice before Sprint race in boost for Mercedes

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George Russell provided Mercedes with a timely boost by finishing fastest in final practice ahead of Saturday’s Sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The Silver Arrows failed to get both cars into Q3 in qualifying for the first time in a decade with Russell and team-mate Lewis Hamilton set to line up in 11th and 13th respectively for this afternoon’s 21-lap dash around Imola.

But England’s Russell led the way in the concluding practice session ahead of the Sprint race which determines the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Rain played havoc with Friday’s running at Imola, but under blue skies and on a dry track today, Russell finished 0.081 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third.

Hamilton, who was involved in an animated exchange with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff following his underwhelming showing in qualifying, was fourth, half-a-second adrift of his team-mate.

But Hamilton and world champion Max Verstappen, who finished seventh, were both involved in off-track excursions. Fernando Alonso finished fifth for Alpine, one spot ahead of Carlos Sainz.

Lewis Hamilton will start a lowly 13th for Saturday's Sprint race
Lewis Hamilton will start a lowly 13th for Saturday’s Sprint race (David Davies/PA)

Lando Norris completed only four laps following a brake failure, while McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas were both sidelined for the hour with mechanical problems.

The Sprint race starts at 4:30pm local time (3:30pm UK).

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