RACE DEBRIEF

    The drivers were welcomed to a wet Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday morning for the final practice session of the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, in which Max Verstappen finished fastest ahead of Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez, and championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

    Intermediate tyres were the starting tyre compound of choice as rooster-tails created a wall of mist around Spa, with numerous drivers going off at different corners. A fleeting splash of blue sky made conditions kinder, if only for a few minutes, before more thick clouds emerged later on.

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    Verstappen described conditions as "greasy" after 20 minutes of running and, having crashed to end Friday's FP2 early, he rallied to the top in FP3 with a time of 1m56.924s, his Red Bull RB16B sporting the slimmest of rear wings. Team mate Perez followed, 0.947s down on Verstappen.

    That left Hamilton third and over a second off the pace – Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas 11th and carrying a five-place grid penalty at this race after that Lap 1 melee in Hungary last time out.

    Lando Norris finished fourth for McLaren, 1.6s off the pace. The Briton took the bold choice to fit red-banded slicks at the end of the session, treating spectators to a masterclass in opposite-lock for one out-and-in-lap, with the track still far too slippery for dry tyres.

    Formula 1 Rolex Belgian Grand Prix 2021

    Belgium 2021

    Practice 3 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing 1:56.924
    2 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing +0.947s
    3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes +1.072s
    4 Lando Norris NOR McLaren +1.585s
    5 Esteban Ocon OCO Alpine +1.989s

    Hungary winner Esteban Ocon rounded out the top five for Alpine while Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, also taking a five-place grid penalty at this race, lined up sixth, team mate Sebastian Vettel eighth – with Pierre Gasly splitting them for P7 in his AlphaTauri.

    Williams' George Russell shrugged off an early off at the Bus Stop chicane to finish ninth whlie his Austrian GP nemesis Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10 for Alpine – his incredible visor cam once again letting us live vicariously in this session.

    Behind 11th-place Bottas was the other Williams of Nicholas Latifi in P12, the Canadian backed to take over the team leader role by his team boss on Friday.

    Next up was McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo in 13th, followed by Carlos Sainz (P14) as the best-placed Ferrari while his team mate Charles Leclerc – sporting a new chassis thanks to his own FP2-ending crash – finished 16th.

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    Splitting the Ferraris in P15 was Mick Schumacher, the Haas driver having begun on wet tyres – as did 19th-place team mate Nikita Mazepin – before following suit with a switch to inters.

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    Yuki Tsunoda took 17th in this session ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi, leaving Mazepin 19th. In last was Kimi Raikkonen, suspected brake issues keeping him in the Alfa Romeo garage for much of the session.

    One eye on the sky, another on those contrasting wing levels as qualifying is up next at 1500 local time, with session-leader Verstappen hoping to resume his title bid with pole position in Belgium. Will championship leader Hamilton make up the ground to stop him?