After leading a Ferrari 1-2 in practice on Friday night, Leclerc continued his good form at Zandvoort this weekend by finishing FP3 at the top of the timesheets.
Leclerc finished just 0.066 seconds ahead of Mercedes driver Russell, while home favorite Max Verstappen could only take third place, a further tenth of a second off the pace.
It came after Verstappen initially set a blistering pace with his opening runs in FP3, immediately beating Leclerc’s benchmark on Friday’s first flying lap.
Despite reporting a loss of grip after just one lap, Verstappen managed to cut his best time down to a 1m12.196s with his first set of soft tyres, giving him a half-second lead on the field after the opening runs.
But after switching to a new set of tires and some set-up changes on his Ferrari, which left the car jacked up for part of the session, Leclerc was able to claim P1 during the late qualifying simulations.
Leclerc set a best lap time of 1m11.632s and found about a second off his previous best in the session, giving him first place at the checkered flag.
Russell signaled Mercedes’ revival in form after the struggle at Spa last weekend by taking second, leaving Verstappen to settle for third overall.
Verstappen stepped on the gas too early exiting Turn 3 on his first flying lap at the end of the session, forcing him to grab the back of the car to avoid a spin. The Dutchman’s effort was therefore two tenths slower than Leclerc’s benchmark.
It caused Verstappen and Red Bull to go for a second push lap a few minutes later, but Verstappen ran a little wide exiting Turn 3 meaning he could only make a small gain to finish the session 0.161s of the closing speed.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
Photo By: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Carlos Sainz took fourth place for Ferrari, having been briefly in first place after his late qualifying simulation. He finished three-tenth behind teammate Leclerc at the top of the field.
Lewis Hamilton was also unable to match his teammate’s pace, as he finished fifth overall, half a second behind Leclerc and over four-tenths from Russell in the sister Mercedes W13. Hamilton reported some traffic problems during FP2, while Russell saw some pigeons sitting on top in Turn 7 on one of his early laps.
Red Bull also opted for two runs with Sergio Perez late in the session, but he could only finish sixth, 0.544s off Leclerc’s best time. Perez was also criticized on the radio from Sainz, who complained that he was being held up in Turn 10.
Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were two of the biggest winners in the final runs in FP3, jumping to seventh and eighth respectively, while Mick Schumacher and Lando Norris managed to round out the top 10.
Kevin Magnussen finished a good session for Haas with an 11th, half-tenth from teammate Schumacher, while Lance Stroll was 12th overall for Aston Martin.
Alex Albon was tied for third for Williams in FP3 after being one of the first drivers to switch to soft tyres, but he eventually fell back to 13th. Esteban Ocon was 14th ahead of Alpine, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in P15, the Frenchman who was lucky enough to avoid a late session crash after running wide on the grass in Turn 9.
AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda finished 16th in PF3, two-tenths behind Gasly, while Daniel Ricciardo was more than seven-tenths of a second slower than Norris for McLaren, taking 17th.
Alfa Romeo drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu finished 18th and 19th respectively in practice, having both spent a period of the session in the garage while the team worked on their cars. It limited Alfa Romeo to fewer laps than any other team, leaving its drivers alone for Nicholas Latifi as the Canadian rounded out the standings in 20th place for Williams.