In the final segment of the testing period, Max Verstappen seized the lead, having chosen to switch to soft tyres. He managed to clock a 1m27.428s which pushed him past the session’s former top-runner, Fernando Alonso.
Verstappen, who currently holds the leading position in the championship, was able to hold off an initial attempt from contender Charles Leclerc. Leclerc experienced some difficulty due to a steering issue in his first sector.
There was a close call from Sainz with a 1m27.762s, mere fractions away from Verstappen’s recent time. This placed him as the second overall, with Leclerc in the third slot after a second run with his soft tyres.
The session was marred with challenges as high winds blew sand onto the newly surfaced track, causing it to be slippery. Sainz managed to lighten the moment by joking, “My dad [two-time WRC champion Carlos Sainz Sr] would be quick in these conditions”.
The conditions greatly affected the performance as compared to F1‘s last visit to the Lusail circuit in 2021. That year, a supreme 1m23.723s was achieved by Verstappen, but unfortunately, his most recent time fell almost seven seconds short of that benchmark.
Despite the new conditions and tyre grip advantage of the softs, the previous session’s leader, Fernando Alonso, was able to maintain his performance. His time of 1m27.919s secured him the fourth position.
Sergio Perez, Alonso’s teammate, wasn’t able to match Alonso’s pace, only managing to achieve a time one-tenth off from Alonso’s.
As the tyre wear drew to an end, Yuki Tsunoda delivered an exceptional performance. His final lap placed him in sixth place; a testament to Alpha Tauri‘s consistent performance post the introduction of their latest upgrade package in Singapore.
Nico Hulkenberg outperformed George Russel, taking him to seventh place. Russell, who initially lowered the pace due to the dusty circuit, did not go for a final lap on the soft tyres, which inflated his time.
McLaren duo Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris initially took the lead after hitting optimal times on the medium tyres. However, the duo’s time were surpassed by late runners who had the advantage of better circuit conditions.
Williams teammates Logan Sargeant and Alex Albon secured 11th and 12th spots respectively by pushing hard on the soft tyres. In contrast, Lewis Hamilton pulled out of the hot lap scenario due to overreaching kerbs.