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FP3: Verstappen lays down a marker for qualifying with quickest time in final practice at Imola

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A thrilling battle at the top of the time sheets in Free Practice 3 for the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix saw four teams filling out the top five positions, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen overcame his driveshaft issues from Friday to win out over the McLaren of Lando Norris, with Lewis Hamilton in P3 for Mercedes.

Having had several quick laps deleted, Verstappen’s final soft-shod effort saw the Red Bull driver stop the clocks with a 1m 14.958s, by far the fastest lap seen yet this weekend, as he ended up a dominant 0.456s fastest than Norris – who recovered well from a lacklustre day for McLaren yesterday.

AS IT HAPPENED: All the action from final practice in Imola

Hamilton had to content himself with P3 behind the Mercedes customer team of McLaren, the seven-time champion over half a second off Verstappen’s pace, as Verstappen’s team mate Sergio Perez claimed fourth, 0.593s off following a tough Friday that saw him collide with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.

Italy 2021

Practice 3 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1VER1:14.958
2NOR+0.456s
3HAM+0.557s
4PER+0.593s
5LEC+0.78s
View Full Results

It’s been a more positive weekend thus far for Ferrari. And Charles Leclerc provided some more optimism with the fifth fastest time, he and team mate Carlos Sainz putting a new floor on their SF21s to good use, as Sainz ended up P7, with the consistently fast Pierre Gasly in between in P6, having impressively set his fastest lap on the medium tyre.

WATCH: Fernando Alonso relives his epic 2005 Imola battle with Michael Schumacher

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas claimed P8, having been forced to abort a fast effort in the final stages after he got a big snap of oversteer at the exit of Acque Minerali. It was a positive session too for Alpine, who have brought a significant upgrade this weekend, and were rewarded with P9 and P10 for Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

Yuki Tsunoda suffered traffic problems that left him fuming in his AlphaTauri AT02 – but recovered to take 11th, ahead of the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll in 12th and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who was unable to match his team mate’s heroics as he ended up 13th, 1.295s off the ultimate pace.

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FP3 Highlights: 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

The second Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel was 14th, just ahead of the Williams of George Russell and the Haas of Mick Schumacher. Nicholas Latifi had been in fine form across Friday, but blotted his copybook with a red flag-triggering trip into the gravel at the exit of the Villeneuve chicane, with Latifi able to recover to the pits having lost his front wing, and ending up 17th.

READ MORE: 5 things we learned from Friday practice for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Meanwhile, after scoring double points at last year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen had a disappointing session, ending up P18 and P19, with both drivers making trips into the gravel, as Haas’ Nikita Mazepin rounded out the field.

So, having suffered his driveshaft issue yesterday, it was very much advantage Max Verstappen heading into qualifying – but can anyone deny the Dutchman a hat-trick of pole positions? We’ll find out when qualifying gets under way.

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