Emilio Romagna GP 2024

MAY 18, 2024

Practice 3 Report - McLaren tops final practice

Lando Norris
© McLaren

In an unexpected twist at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, McLaren outpaced Ferrari in the final practice session at Imola. Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris set the fastest times, signaling a strong performance ahead of qualifying. However, the session was marred by two red flags, caused by crashes from Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez.

Fernando Alonso’s crash occurred as he exited the second Rivazza corner, bringing the first red flag of the session. Shortly after, Sergio Pérez lost control and hit the wall at the Variante Gresini, causing the second red flag. Despite the disruption, marshals swiftly cleared Pérez’s Red Bull, allowing the track to reopen with just two minutes remaining. This brief window saw Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon making significant improvements, while many front runners were unable to complete their qualifying runs.

Oscar Piastri ended the session at the top of the leaderboard, clocking a time just 0.045 seconds shy of the official track record. Piastri displayed impressive form throughout the session, despite a momentary off-track excursion at Rivazza while on medium compound tires. Switching to softer tires, he delivered a stellar performance. Lando Norris also managed a low fuel run but faced challenges due to compromised out-laps, finishing 0.3 seconds behind his teammate.

Ferrari had dominated much of the session, with Carlos Sainz leading Charles Leclerc by a narrow margin of 0.02 seconds. However, both drivers struggled to find clean track space in the final minutes, hampered by traffic and having to pass Pierre Gasly at the end of their laps. This left Sainz and Leclerc settling for third and fourth places, respectively.

Red Bull showed signs of improvement compared to Friday, but their RB21 cars lacked the dominance seen earlier in the season. Max Verstappen reported handling issues in the first two chicanes, though he was satisfied with the car’s balance for the remainder of the lap. Verstappen ended the session in sixth place. Sergio Pérez, unable to complete a clean lap after his crash, finished in 12th.

Mercedes continued to be competitive, with George Russell securing fifth place, albeit more than half a second behind Piastri. Lewis Hamilton, however, faced difficulties and could not complete a qualifying run, leaving him in 17th place. Both Mercedes drivers were close in pace on medium tires, indicating potential for improvement in the upcoming sessions.

The session’s disruptions led to surprising results, with Alexander Albon, Esteban Ocon, Lance Stroll, and Nico Hülkenberg making it into the top ten. Yuki Tsunoda, unable to execute his qualifying run, ended up 13th. His best lap, set on medium tires, had placed him comfortably inside the top ten before others completed their low fuel runs.

As McLaren’s performance raises eyebrows, the final practice has set the stage for an intriguing qualifying session. With the top teams grappling with varying issues, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix promises a thrilling contest ahead.