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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Ferrari’s Leclerc completes all three drills at Spanish GP

MONTMELÓ, Spain ( Associated Press) – Formula One points leader Charles Leclerc pushed all three drills ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix to beat world champion Max Verstappen in the final session before Saturday’s qualifying.

The Ferrari driver was just 0.072 seconds faster than Red Bull’s Verstappen. The Mercedes pair of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were the fastest in Saturday morning’s session in third and fourth places.

Qualifying for Sunday’s race was scheduled to follow the final practice session, held on a hot, sunny day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Although large parts of Spain are under heatwave alert with May temperatures hitting their hottest in two decades, it was a manageable 32 C (89 F) during morning exercises.

Mick Schumacher’s most heat came from Haas when his brakes failed and the hour-long session caught fire in barely 15 minutes.

Schumacher told his team by radio that “my brakes are burning, my rear brakes are burning” as he overshot his stop. The crew members with fire extinguishers immediately doused the fire emanating from the rear right wheel.

The team said it was getting a gearbox change and “believe that Mick’s car will be in shape to take part in qualifying.”

More than 100,000 fans are expected at the first Spanish GP with full spectators since 2019; The public was not allowed to attend in 2020 and only 1,000 fans were allowed inside in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions.

Spanish driver Carlos Sainz, the best shot to win on home soil, was fifth fastest in his Ferrari on Saturday morning. A fuel system issue forced Ferrari to replace Sainz’s chassis overnight.

Fellow countryman Fernando Alonso hasn’t had a happy homecoming so far. He finished 12th in Saturday morning practice for Alpine, accused the FIA ​​of incompetence in race control, and was penalized during a Friday practice.

Spain’s greatest driver has struggled this season and the two-time F1 champion has only scored two points, while Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon has scored 24.

Leclerc holds a 19-point lead over Verstappen after five races, but Verstappen has the momentum and continues to win at Imola and Miami. The Dutchman has three wins this season in Leclerc’s two wins.

But Ferrari is one of several teams arriving in Spain with upgrades to their 2022 cars and hopes the team can stop Verstappen on the 4.6-kilometre (2.8-mile) circuit.

Qualifying will be important as the pole sitter has won 23 out of 31 times for this race as the track has few passing areas.

The hot temperatures should make tire management critical in a 66-lap race on a track notorious for being tough on the tires. Leclerc complained about it during Friday’s practice.

Ferrari Racing Director Laurent Mackies admitted before qualifying that the Italian livery was “not happy with our long runs” due to wear and tear in the tyres.

“We’re looking forward to helping with the upgrades (we brought to Spain) and give the tyres an easier time,” said Makeiz.

Hamilton has won the Spanish GP six times, and for each of the last five years. But the seven-time world champion entered the weekend as an outside challenger in what has so far been a two-man title fight between Verstappen and Leclerc.

Hamilton has been beaten by new teammate Russell in four out of five races this year as Mercedes has been out of the gate with its new car.

Echoing Hamilton’s positive effects from Friday’s practice, Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott said his team had done a lot to eliminate the bouncing effect – known as “porpoising” – that allowed the team to see the new car. plagued by.

“We’ve definitely sorted out the car,” Elliot said. He did not rule out a rebound that could return Mercedes to title contention.

“We were fortunate to have been at the forefront for a long time, and are now finding ourselves as the challengers,” he said. “We’re not far behind, if we can get our car in position we have a chance.”

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More Associated Press Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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