Third free practice: Verstappen leads Albon and Perez to complete clean sweep training in Mexico City

Third free practice: Verstappen leads Albon and Perez to complete clean sweep training in Mexico City

Max Verstappen completed his practice sweep as he set the pace in the third and final practice of the Mexico City Grand Prix, beating impressive Williams driver Alex Albon and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen looked engaged at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Friday, and while George Russell was quickest after the first laps on the soft tyres, three-time world champion Verstappen was back on top when the teams let off the fuel and went racing. Appropriate rehabilitation simulation.

Practice Summary: Red Bull looks strong but the margins are incredibly tight among the rest of the top 10 in Mexico

He clocked a time of 1 minute 17.887 seconds to lead by just 0.070 seconds over Albon, but immediately came on the team radio to say he had encountered too much traffic on his fast lap – suggesting he could have gone faster.

Albon, though, was the star as he repeated the blistering pace he showed in FP1 with another lap to add evidence to the theory that Williams could be a real shock package this weekend.

Perez, the home favourite, was third, 0.139 seconds off the pace, in bright and sunny conditions in Mexico on a track that picked up speed as the one-hour session went on thanks to falling rubber after light rain overnight.

Russell was the Mercedes leader in fourth place, with the Briton telling his team over the radio that he was surprised by the lack of improvement when using new soft materials and fuel withdrawal from a car that looked reasonably competitive.

Oscar Piastri was just over half a second off the pace in fifth for McLaren, while Valtteri Bottas continued his good form this weekend with sixth for Alfa Romeo.

Read more: ‘I won’t give up’ – Perez’s season has been difficult but with great support in Mexico he is determined to finish the season on a high

Yuki Tsunoda has a long weekend ahead of him, having received a set of new engine and gearbox parts that will restrict him to the back of the grid. As a result, he spent most of the session focusing on long runs – but when he took to the soft rides to simulate qualifying with a few minutes left, he moved up to seventh.

Lando Norris finished eighth, ahead of another impressive display from Daniel Ricciardo to confirm AlphaTauri’s pace, while seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton, driving for Mercedes, rounded out the top ten.

Logan Sargeant proved the Williams team has good speed in Mexico as he finished 11th quickest ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, with the top 12 separated by just over a second.

Ferrari faced a frustrating end to the session as Charles Leclerc first had to retire from the qualifying session when he encountered a slow-moving Kevin Magnussen on the racing line in the minutes, and then Carlos Sainz spun to take avoiding action when he encountered a slow-moving Lance Stroll at the same place.

This means Ferrari’s final qualifying pace is unknown with Leclerc close to 13th and Sainz 15th, the pair falling ahead of Stroll.

Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg was the best performer in 16th, ahead of Fernando Alonso who looked unusually off the pace all weekend.

NEED TO KNOW: The most important facts, stats and trivia ahead of the 2023 Mexico City Grand Prix

The Alps also faced a difficult session, with Pierre Gasly spinning early on the medium tyres, and Esteban Ocon switching off his soft tire when he appeared to be having a braking problem before the first turn.

They finished 18th and 20th, with Magnussen in between, and the Dane did not set a time until the final 20th lap of the session.

This practice was completed and dusted as the teams had a few hours to fix their equipment before the qualifying hour at 1500 local time. There were seven different pole sitters over as many years in Mexico. Will we see the number eight in 2023?

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