Verstappen denies Mercedes Sakhir practice clean sweep, Russell seventh

Red Bulls Dutch driver Max Verstappen gestures during a press conference.
Red Bulls Dutch driver Max Verstappen gestures during a press conference.

• Max Verstappen was fastest in the final practice session on Saturday.
• He set a lap time of 54.064 seconds with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas in P2.
• George Russell was seventh fastest. 
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.

Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull on Saturday to deny Mercedes a clean sweep of Formula One practice for the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The Dutchman lapped the shorter 3.5-km outer layout of the floodlit Bahrain International Circuit in 54.064 seconds to go 0.206 seconds clear of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn appeared to have reasserted his authority as the lead driver at Mercedes after Lewis Hamilton's stand-in George Russell stole the spotlight by setting the fastest time in both practice sessions on Friday.

The 22-year-old Briton, a substitute for Lewis Hamilton after the seven-times world champion tested positive for Covid-19, was only seventh in Saturday's final hour of practice, 0.6 seconds off Dutchman Verstappen's time.

The Sakhir Grand Prix is the first time Hamilton, who has already wrapped up a record-equalling seventh title, will sit out a race since he made his debut at the 2007 season-opener in Australia.

The sport's most successful qualifier by far, having taken his 98th pole position last week in Bahrain, the Briton's absence could spice up the battle for the top spot in qualifying later on Saturday.

Pierre Gasly was an impressive third for AlphaTauri ahead of Renault's Esteban Ocon.

Lando Norris was fifth in his McLaren ahead of Verstappen's team mate Alexander Albon in sixth.

Racing Point team mates Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll were eighth and ninth respectively behind Russell, while Carlos Sainz rounded out the top 10 for McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel was 15th, but his Ferrari team pulled him in early to carry out a precautionary engine change ahead of qualifying.

The grid's two new rookies once again propped up the timesheets.

Pietro Fittipaldi, standing in for the injured Romain Grosjean at Haas, was 19th with Russell's Williams replacement Jack Aitken last.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Brought to you by
Voting Booth
Who do you feel was at fault for Verstappen and Hamilton's Italian GP crash?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
25% - 1424 votes
43% - 2415 votes
They were both at fault
32% - 1784 votes