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Hamilton flounders, Leclerc clean sweep as F1 show goes on despite terrorist attack

Hamilton flounders, Leclerc clean sweep as F1 show goes on despite terrorist attack

Hamilton flounders, Leclerc clean sweep as F1 show goes on despite terrorist attack

Hamilton flounders, Leclerc clean sweep as F1 show goes on despite terrorist attack

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes emerged from final practice for the controversial Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as also-rans as Charles Leclerc made it a clean sweep ahead of qualifying.

Mercedes finished the hour-long session with the seventh quickest car given those ahead of the reigning constructors' champions, with Hamilton a lowly 11th fastest and almost a second adrift of Ferrari's Leclerc and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

After finishing quickest in both Friday outings, Leclerc left it until his final lap after time had expired to pip F1 champion Verstappen by just 0.033secs with a lap of one minute 29.735s.

Behind the duo, who were the main protagonists for the opening race win in Bahrain a week ago, were team-mates Sergio Perez ahead of Carlos Sainz, with the former only 0.098s adrift, while the latter was 0.274s adrift.

It was a final practice session, though, run against a backdrop of nervousness given just 24 hours earlier a terrorist strike had resulted in a missile hitting a nearby oil depot, leading to discussions over whether the race weekend would continue.

Despite concerns from the drivers, a number of whom were not keen to continue, four-and-a-half-hours of talks ultimately led to a consensus the show would go on.

Due to the conditions, with the sun beginning to set, after 20 minutes of the session still half of the field had yet to emerge from the garage by which point Leclerc again led the way with a lap of 1:30.139s.

Verstappen surged his way to the top 15 minutes later, pipping Leclerc's time by 0.371s, and unusually on his fifth lap on a set of soft tyres.

Later on, Verstappen was on course to shatter his best time as he was three-tenths of a second quicker through the first two sectors only to run beyond the apex of the quick flick through turn 22.

Leclerc's first attempt at usurping Verstappen saw him purple the first sector only to lose time through the middle and finish 0.111s slower overall.

On the follow-up, however, Leclerc managed to put a clean lap together to clinch top spot again but seemingly with time in the tank for Verstappen given his earlier error.

For Mercedes, it was a horror show, with Hamilton's opening lap on a set of softs seeing him miss the apex at turn 16, forcing him to take to the run-off area in a W13 that again appeared to be heavily affected by the porpoising phenomenon.

On a fresh set of softs later in the session, Hamilton embarked on two push laps but on both occasions he finished a second behind Leclerc.

As for team-mate George Russell, the younger Briton was a wretched 14th, 1.248s behind the Monégasque.

Again, Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas fared strongly, finishing fifth quickest behind the leading two teams with a lap of 1:30.030s, followed by Alpine's Esteban Ocon.

AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly was seventh on the timesheet, albeit missing the final 20 minutes after grinding to a halt in the pit lane exit after complaining of a driveshaft problem.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen overcome a difficult Friday on his debut at this track to get up to speed and finish eighth quickest, just over half-a-second down, followed by Alpine's Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda in his AlphaTauri.

Astonishingly, behind Hamilton, the bottom seven cars were all Mercedes-powered, with Russell followed by Aston Martin's Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg in 15th and 18th, McLaren pair Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris in 16th and 19th and Williams duo Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi lying 17th and 20th.

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix final practice results

1. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] 1:29.735s

2. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] +0.033

3. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] +0.098s

4. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] +0.274

5. Valtteri Bottas [Alfa Romeo] +0.295

6. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] +0.404

7. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] +0.413

8. Kevin Magnussen [Haas] +0.527

9. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] +0.561

10. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] +0.680

11. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] +0.972 12. Mick Schumacher [Haas] +1.030

13. Guanyu Zhou [Alfa Romeo] +1.211

14. George Russell [Mercedes] +1.248

15. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] +1.332

16. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] +1.451

17. Alex Albon [Williams] +1.639

18. Nico Hulkenberg [Aston Martin] +1.689

19. Lando Norris [McLaren] +1.794

20. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] +2.257

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