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Max Verstappen lays down the gauntlet around Zandvoort as drivers squabble for pace

• Max Verstappen set the fastest time in third practice ahead of qualifying.

• The Dutchman gave his home fans plenty to cheer about as he went around Circuit Zandvoort.

• Third Practice was not without drama as Carlos Sainz crashed at Turn 3.

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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen was quickest in the final practice session for the Dutch GP as Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz crashed at the banked Turn 3.

Alfa Romeo had a different driver in the car for final practice. Robert Kubica was called up after Kimi Raikkonen tested positive for Covid-19 and had to self-isolate. It is the Polish driver’s first Grand Prix since 2019, and, as to be expected, he was the first man out on track, needing to get as much time in the car as possible. A 1:15.854 was his opening gambit.

That was beaten almost immediately by Lewis Hamilton. Powered by a new Mercedes engine after Friday’s oil system failure, he clocked a 1:12.010. With three laps in the opening five minutes, he was officially equal to the number of laps he managed the entire Friday afternoon.

More trouble for Vettel

After a brief stop in the pits, Hamilton was back out on track while his title rival, Max Verstappen, opted to remain in the Red Bull garage. Lando Norris moved up to second place, a tenth off Hamilton’s pace, with Daniel Ricciardo P3. Surprisingly, given Friday’s red flags, only seven drivers posted times in the first 10 minutes.

Sebastian Vettel, another driver who had car troubles on Friday, got it wrong at Turn 10. A big snap of mid-corner oversteer sent him into the gravel, but somehow he kept it out of the barrier. The same cannot be said of Carlos Sainz.

“Sorry guys, I don’t know what happened,” he said after hitting the barrier at Turn 3. He lost the rear of his SF21 out of Turn 2, and instead of going left into the banked Turn 3, he hit the barrier. Both the front and rear of the car were damaged. The red flags were out with Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas the only two drivers without times on the board. Fernando Alonso was up in P1 with a 1:11.705.

READ: 2021 Dutch Grand Prix – Verstappen fastest in final practice ahead of qualifying

The green light was back on with 29 minutes remaining, and Verstappen joining his rivals with a set of mediums bolted onto his RB16B. His first flying lap was a 1:11.217. Bottas on the soft tyres was 0.008s quicker to go P1. Verstappen hit back with a 1:10.702, half a second quicker than Bottas’ soft tyre lap.

With drivers swapping to the soft tyres in the final 20 minutes, Alonso went quickest with a 1:10.670 while Norris moved up to third place, and then visited the gravel at Turn 9. Esteban Ocon went fourth, the latter reporting a “deployment problem at Turn 11”.

Bottas was the next to move up to P1, Hamilton also improving but only as far as second, before Verstappen went purple, purple and purple to top the timesheet with 1:09.623. “I guess the last sector won’t get any better than that”, was the Dutchman’s verdict.

Kubica was 19th fastest, 2.5 seconds off the pace. He was ninth-tenths behind his team mate Antonio Giovinazzi.

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