After leading a Ferrari 1-2 in second practice on Friday night, Leclerc continued his good form so far this weekend at Zandvoort by closing FP3 at the top of the timesheets.
Leclerc finished just 0.066 seconds behind Mercedes driver Russell, while local favorite Max Verstappen could only take third place, a further tenth of a second off the pace.
It came after Verstappen initially set a blistering pace with his first races in FP3, immediately beating Leclerc’s benchmark from Friday on his first flying lap.
Despite reporting a loss of grip after just one lap, Verstappen managed to cut his best time to 1m12.196s with his first set of softs, leaving him half a second clear after the opening runs.
But after switching to a new set of tires and some set-up changes on his Ferrari which saw the car on jacks for part of the session, Leclerc was able to claim P1 in the late qualifying simulations.
Leclerc set a best time of 1m11.632s, finding about a second off his previous session best to give him the top spot at the checkered flag.
Russell signaled Mercedes’ revival of form after struggling at Spa last weekend by taking P2, leaving Verstappen to settle for his place in the overall standings.
Verstappen hit the throttle too early out of Turn 3 on his first flying lap late in the session, forcing him to catch the rear of the car to avoid a spin. As a result, the Dutchman’s effort was two-tenths slower than Leclerc’s benchmark.
This prompted Verstappen and Red Bull to push for a second lap a few minutes later, but Verstappen ran a bit wide on the exit of Turn 3, meaning he could only make a small gain for end the session 0.161 seconds off the pace.
Carlos Sainz took fourth place for Ferrari, having briefly held the top spot after his late qualifying simulation. He finished three tenths behind his teammate Leclerc at the front of the pack.
Lewis Hamilton was also unable to match his teammate’s pace as he took fifth overall, half a second behind Leclerc and more than four tenths behind Russell in sister Mercedes. W13. Hamilton reported traffic problems during FP2, while Russell spotted pigeons sitting at the top of Turn 7 on one of his opening laps.
Red Bull also opted for two runs with Sergio Perez late in the session, but he could only finish sixth, 0.544 seconds behind Leclerc’s best time. Perez was also criticized on the radio by Sainz, who complained about being held up at Turn 10.
Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were two of the biggest winners in FP3’s final runs, jumping to seventh and eighth respectively, while Mick Schumacher and Lando Norris managed to complete the top 10.
Kevin Magnussen capped off a good session for Haas by taking 11th, half a tenth behind team-mate Schumacher, while Lance Stroll was 12th overall for Aston Martin.
Alex Albon briefly held third for Williams in FP3 after being one of the first riders to switch to soft tyres, but eventually fell back to 13th. Esteban Ocon took 14th for Alpine ahead of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in P15, who was lucky to avoid a crash late in the session after running wide on the grass at Turn 9.
His AlphaTauri teammate Yuki Tsunoda finished 16th in PF3, two tenths behind Gasly, while Daniel Ricciardo was more than seven tenths of a second slower than Norris for McLaren, leaving him 17th.
Alfa Romeo drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu finished the practice 18th and 19th respectively, having both spent parts of the session in the garage while the team worked on their cars. This limited Alfa Romeo to fewer laps than any other team and left its drivers only ahead of Nicholas Latifi as the Canadian completed the standings in 20th for Williams.
Dutch F1 GP: Leclerc leads Russell’s FP3, Verstappen