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Verstappen on top in rain-hit final Canada F1 practice

Defending double world champion Max Verstappen bounced back from a pedestrian performance on Friday to top the times in Saturday’s rainswept third and final free practice for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. 

The Red Bull driver, who had complained of ‘tricky’ challenges in setting up his car for the demanding Circuit Gilles Villeneuve bumps and barriers, clocked a best lap in one minute and 23.106 seconds to top Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.291 seconds. 

Two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin was third, but he was 1.3 seconds off the leading pace, ahead of Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari, and Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

Sainz had crashed midway through the session, bouncing off the barriers at Turn One, but walked away unhurt. 

Local hero Lance Stroll was seventh in the second Aston Martin, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Friday’s fastest man seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. 

After Friday’s protracted and interrupted practice, the entire field was in need of a clean session – but an ominous low air temperature of only 14 degrees and a soaking wet track after heavy and continuing overnight rain only offered the prospect of more incidents. 

Nico Hulkenberg was first out for Haas, in need of a run after blowing an engine in second practice. With a new power unit on board, he ventured out on full wet tyres, followed by Williams’ Logan Sargeant, Alonso and Russell. 

Alonso was swiftly on top of the times and came in to switch to intermediates after being held up at the hairpin. “Who is the blind guy in the Alpha Tauri?” he asked. The answer was Yuko Tsunoda. 

The Japanese then survived a big spin out of Turn Four, without touching the barriers, before going top in 1:30.685 – a full 17 seconds slower than the leading times on Friday. 

Sainz crash

Verstappen, on wets, then took command in 1:29.190, before being beaten by Leclerc and then Hulkenberg as the times tumbled to 1:25.724, while Tsunoda spun again at Turn Two.

After his modest showing on Friday, Verstappen was clearly in the mood in the rain and went top again in 1:24.977 before Sainz crashed in his Ferrari midway through the hour at Turn One.

The Spaniard lost control under braking and the rear end of his car spun away turning him into the wall and damaging both ends. He was unhurt, but the session was red-flagged. 

After a seven-minute stoppage, the action resumed with Hamilton, Friday’s fastest man, slithering off at Turn One into a run-off area to re-join at Turn Two. 

In the colder weather, Mercedes were clearly struggling with tyre performance and were unable to generate temperatures. 

“Grip is very poor,” said Hamilton. “It is all about the temps,” came the reply.

Verstappen, meanwhile, went 1.6 clear of the rest with a lap in 1:23.106 with 12 minutes remaining and more, heavier rain sweeping across the circuit to send everyone back to the pits until the session ended.

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