F1: Pierre Gasly surprise pace-setter in FP3 as Max Verstappen crashes out

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Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly

• AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly set the pace in the third and final practice session.

• Max Verstappen crashed out of the session.

• Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest.

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Max Verstappen's preparations for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix were dealt a major blow after he crashed out of final practice. The world championship leader carried too much speed through the left-handed Turn 15 and hit the barrier.

Verstappen was unable to reverse away from the accident and the session was red-flagged with 30 minutes remaining. Verstappen's Red Bull team will now face a race against time to ensure his car is ready for qualifying, which takes place at 1pm.

Verstappen, who holds a four-point lead over Lewis Hamilton heading into Sunday's race, suffered suspension damage in the accident.After leaving his cockpit, Verstappen sat hunched over on a concrete block as he pondered just how big of a blow his practice crash might be ahead of the sixth round of the campaign in Baku.

Pace setter

In Verstappen's absence, the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly finished as the surprise pace setter as he ended the running three tenths clear of Red Bull's Sergio Perez, with Hamilton third.

However, the world champion benefitted from a mighty tow off the back of Perez's Red Bull on the long drag to the finish line, with his Mercedes team still appearing to struggle for pace.

READ: WRAP | 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Pierre Gasly goes fastest in final practice

Indeed, Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas finished only 13th, 1.5 seconds off the pace. Without the slipstream, Hamilton would have been around a second slower than Gasly which would have put him ninth.

Charles Leclerc finished fourth for Ferrari ahead of team mate Carlos Sainz with British driver Lando Norris sixth in his McLaren. George Russell broke down in the closing stages following a mechanical failure.

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