F1: Max Verstappen fastest in final Emilia Romagna Grand Prix practice

Red Bull driver broke down in Friday’s concluding session but bounced back on Saturday

Philip Duncan
Saturday 17 April 2021 11:55
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Red Bull's Max Verstappen is seen as Lewis Hamilton’s chief rival this season
Red Bull's Max Verstappen is seen as Lewis Hamilton’s chief rival this season

Max Verstappen put himself in a promising position ahead of qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix by finishing fastest in final practice on Saturday.

The Red Bull driver broke down in Friday’s concluding session in Imola, but responded in impressive fashion to finish 0.456 seconds clear of McLaren’s Lando Norris, with reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton third.

Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas completed a practice double for Mercedes on Friday, but the Finn ended Saturday morning running in eighth.

Verstappen should have won the opening round in Bahrain three weeks ago but failed to find a way past Hamilton in the closing stages. And in Imola, the Red Bull driver again appears the man to beat in a car which seems to hold a one-lap advantage over Hamilton’s Mercedes.

Indeed, the seven-time world champion finished more than half-a-second off Verstappen’s pace. Bottas was nearly one second behind the Dutchman.

Norris finished a strong fourth at the first race and the young Briton will hope to secure a high grid slot in Italy on the evidence of his speed in practice.

Sergio Perez was fourth in the other Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.

A number of drivers, including Kimi Raikkonen, slipped off the road during practice, with Nicholas Latifi crashing into the wall.

The Canadian driver lost control of his Williams through turns five and six, running into the gravel and damaging his front wing.

The session was suspended as he limped back to the pits.

PA

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