Dutch GP 2023

AUGUST 26, 2023

Practice 3 Report - Verstappen leads wet session

Max Verstappan
© Red Bull

By Luis Vasconcelos

Max Verstappen mastered tricky conditions to set the fastest time during a wet FP3 session in Zandvoort, leaving his nearest opponent, George Russell, almost 0.4s behind.

With the FIA handing an extra set of intermediate tyres to the drivers for this session, there was a considerable amount of running done but so tricky were the conditions that three incidents brought the red flag out. Verstappen, who nearly hit the wall coming out of Turn 3 at the start of the session and then went straight in Turn 11 on what would have been his last flying lap, ended up besting the competition by quite a good margin to the delight of the fans who braved the conditions and still made it to the track on a cold and wet morning.

In a track with few run off areas and plenty of gravel traps, it was no surprise there were quite a few incidents, starting off when Kevin Magnussen spun and hit the wall in Turn 3 on what was his out lap, damaging the left front of his Haas and bring out the first red flag of the session, just nine minutes after the start of running. Guanyu Zhou also spun but got beached on the gravel trap on the exit of Turn 13, forcing a second red flag of the session, with rookie Liam Lawson having a harmless spin in the same corner a few minutes later, but while he was trying to spin his way back into the right direction the Race Director stopped the session again, in an abundance of caution that only cost four minutes of running to everyone.

The young New Zealander was the second driver out on track, behind local hero Verstappen and was, understandably, the man who completed the most laps - 26 in total - as he tried to learn as much as possible about the AlphaTauri AT04, while trying to reacquaint himself with Zandvoort, having twice raced here in Formula 2 in the last two years. Naturally his lap times were not competitive, as he was 5.7s slower than Verstappen and 2.8s slower than team mate Yuki Tsunoda, but apart from his spin the Super Formula front-runner progressed with every single lap and, generally, did reasonably well considering “he’s been thrown at the deep end”, as Red Bull’s Christian Horner said before the session started.

Being on track at the right time with tyres in good conditions and avoiding traffic was the key to set quick times in this session, the racing line drying up considerably in the last ten minutes, so the final standings paint a picture that doesn’t reflect the relative speed of each and every driver. With many drivers going off, particularly in Turn One - Leclerc went straight here on three occasions, Sargeant, Alonso, Ocon and Sainz once - and in Turn 11 - Norris, Pérez, Gasly and Verstappen - there were plenty of yellow flags hampering drivers on quick laps, which also added to the mix.

In the end Russell was second quickest ahead of, Pérez, Alonso and Hamilton - the Brit hampered by a yellow flag into Turn One as Leclerc was on the tarmac in the run-off area at the time - with Alex Albon keeping up Williams’ momentum by setting the 6th quickest time of the session. McLaren, who had both drivers topping the time sheets when the track was more slippery, dropped down the order because of traffic, with Piastri ending the session and P7 and Norris at the bottom of the top ten.

While Valtteri Bottas confirmed his Alfa Romeo is quick in all sorts of conditions around this track, setting the 8th fastest time of the session, Ferrari continued to struggle. Having gone off three times in Turn One, Leclerc ended the morning in 9th place while Sainz was down in P12, both of them more than one second away from Russell, in second place.