Advertisement

Hamilton on top with vintage lap in final practice

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton top in practice (Geoff Robins)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton top in practice (Geoff Robins)

Lewis Hamilton rolled back the years with a vintage lap to top the times for Mercedes ahead of Red Bull’s revived Max Verstappen in Saturday’s third and final free practice for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion, relishing the handling of his updated car, clocked a best lap of one minute and 12.549 seconds to outpace the series leader and three-time champion by nearly four-tenths in an intriguing session punctuated by one brief red-flag stoppage.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell was third ahead of local hope Lance Stroll of Aston Martin, McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and RB’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Lando Norris was seventh in the second McLaren ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso in the second Aston Martin, Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and Charles Leclerc, fresh from winning his home Monaco Grand Prix for Ferrari.

On a cloudy and breezy afternoon on the man-made Ile Notre-Dame, built in 1965 from rock excavated in the construction of the city’s metro system, the two Red Bulls led out from the pitlane, both keen to improve on a grim Friday for the team.

Perez was soon on top, replaced briskly by Verstappen after a brief red flag caused by Zhou Guanyu, who lost control of his Sauber and hit the barriers at Turn Two. At this stage, everyone was on mediums.

Alpine, another team in some strife, were briefly one-two in the early stages with Pierre Gasly ahead of Esteban Ocon before the Dutchman, on a long run on medium tyres, clocked his 1:15.495 to go top.

Alonso then outpaced him in 1:14.870 with Daniel Ricciardo of RB going second ahead of home hero Lance Stroll of Aston Martin before the introduction of softs saw Williams’ Logan Sargeant go fastest.

The American’s tenure of top spot was brief as Russell and then Alex Albon, in the second Williams, set the pace, the Anglo-Thai driver becoming the first into the 1:13’s.

Leclerc and Hamilton reacted by going quickest, the Briton enjoying Mercedes’ updated front wing for the first time clocking 1:13.464. Norris lapped within 0.011 seconds confirming that a close contest is in prospect in qualifying later Saturday.

With the teams using split strategies to gather maximum data, the order was as unpredictable as the conditions with dark rain clouds looming ahead of the final hot runs.

Russell went early, with 12 minutes remaining, and clocked 1:13.274 to go top ahead of Hamilton before Verstappen took second and then Hamilton responded with a rapid lap in 1:12.549, lifting him seven-tenths clear of Russell.

On the track where he claimed his maiden win in 2007 and has since added a record-equalling six more triumphs, this was a statement lap.

As he did it, the ‘wall of champions’ claimed its first victim when Albon smacked his Williams into it, damaging his car’s suspension. He crept home to the pits.

Verstappen responded to Hamilton’s lap in 1:13.182, taking second, but he was six-tenths adrift of the Mercedes before Stroll and then Russell moved up to second and third, Russell dipping inside the 1:12’s ahead of Verstappen’s late wall-grazing surge in 1:12.923.

str/dmc