George Russell has topped a dry final practice at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix ahead of the first sprint race of the season.
The Briton put his Mercedes 0.081s ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc completing the top three, 0.283s adrift.
It was the first dry session of the grand prix weekend after both practice and qualifying on Friday were heavily affected by rain, but despite the change in climatic conditions, parc fermé rules remained from Friday night according to sprint weekend rules.
But the Mercedes car was substantially happier on the dry and warm track – surface temperatures hovered at around 86 degrees F, or around 16 degrees F warmer than the same time time yesterday – and Russell seized his chance to top the session, with teammate Lewis Hamilton half a second behind in fourth.
It was Russell’s personal best time of the weekend, although his lap, a 1m 19.457s, was almost 0.7s slower than the best of Friday despite the prevalent conditions.
Fernando Alonso was fifth for Alpine ahead of Carlos Sainz, the second Ferrari driver desperate to rebuild confidence after his qualifying crash on Friday, which prompted suggestions from team boss Mattia Binotto that he was feeling the pressure of driving a frontrunning car.
Max Verstappen, who will start today’s sprint race from pole position after topping qualifying yesterday, was seventh ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, and Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top 10 for Alfa Romeo.
Alex Albon was 11th for Williams, the Thai adapting quickly to the changed conditions, while Haas teammates Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher slipped down to 12th and 13th after a strong qualifying on Friday.
Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel followed, with Esteban Ocon 16th and Nicholas Latifi 17th and last of the session’s legitimate runners.
Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were 18th and 19th, McLaren’s strong Friday turning to dust on Saturday morning.
Norris returned to his garage after just three laps with brake problems and was able to rejoin in only the final minutes of the hour to set an additional three slow laps in traffic.
Ricciardo fared worse, with a power unit problem identified when the team fired up the car ahead of final practice. The Australian was unable to undertake any running at all, leaving both drivers lacking critical dry track time after a wet Friday.
Valtteri Bottas was classified last after he too was unable to set any laps thanks to knock-on repairs to the exhaust problem that parked him by the side of the track in Q3 yesterday with an overheating power unit.