2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP FP3: What did we learn?Β 

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia - Final Practice
Max Verstappen is dominance personified at the moment

The final free practice session of the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP ended with Max Verstappen dominating the last 60 minutes before qualifying. The Red Bull driver ended the session on top of the standings but what was even more remarkable was the lead he had against the rest of the field.

Verstappen was almost seven-tenths of a second quicker than his teammate Sergio Perez and almost a second quicker than the first non-Red Bull car, Fernando Alonso.

The session saw a ray of hope for teams like McLaren and Mercedes as both teams had drivers in the top 10, something that didn't happen yesterday. Having said that, what did we learn after the final 60 mins of free practice in the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP? Let's take a look.

2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP FP3: Key Learnings

#1 Max Verstappen is in a league of his own

One can't be faulted for predicting Max Verstappen as the driver who secures pole position and wins the race without much of a battle. The Red Bull driver is just on a different level than any other driver on the track right now. Sergio Perez drives the same car and is still more than half a second behind his teammate.

🏁 FP3 CLASSIFICATION 🏁Another promising session in the bag for @redbullracing and @AstonMartinF1! πŸ‘Š#SaudiArabianGP #F1

Verstappen wasn't quite comfortable heading into qualifying in Bahrain last time around. He still ended up securing pole position. This time, the Dutch driver seems comfortable and we should be prepared for a dominant showing from the two-time world champion at the Saudi Arabian GP.

#2 What's up with Ferrari?

Ferrari have become such a quandary this weekend due to consistent sandbagging even at this stage of the Saudi Arabian GP weekend. Even Charles Leclerc openly admitted yesterday that the team had a decent time in the bag that it hadn't shown.

Even in FP3, it does appear that the team once again kept a few horses from the power unit in the back pocket. There is an expectation that Ferrari could be second-fastest in qualifying and the team has not shown it yet, however, we will need to wait and see if that is the case.

The Scuderia will be one of the more curious cases in the qualifying session.

#3 Tire warmup seems to be a factor

Multiple drivers opted to do an extra preparation lap on the tire before going for a one-lap dash. One of the reasons behind it appears to be the cooler temperature in Jeddah. The track does not suffer much tire degradation and its smooth nature means drivers might have to do multiple laps to clock their best times.

This could be a concern for some teams and play in the hands of others. Teams like Ferrari and Haas, which tend to be harder on their tires, could benefit from it as they can fire them quicker than the others.

A nerve-wracking moment for Esteban Ocon who very nearly loses it! 🀯#SaudiArabianGP #F1

Meanwhile, Alpine on Friday had to continue running for multiple laps and saw its lap time drop with every lap. The French team could be in trouble in qualifying if they can't find a way around it.

#4 Mercedes and Alpine might be in for an intense battle

Mercedes had a better session this time around, allaying fears that the German unit might end up being too far behind the leading group. Having said that, Mercedes' main opposition might prove to be Alpine this weekend.

There's not much to choose between the two teams and the differentiating factor in the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP qualifying could be the way the two cars get their tires up to temperature. It's going to be an interesting session as quite a few mini-battles seem to be emerging in the field.

#5 There's nothing to choose in the midfield

There's hardly anything to choose between the midfield teams at the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP. After the top three teams in Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin, predicting the pecking order between the others is a tough call.

Lando Norris' lap is impeded as he is accidentally blocked by Max Verstappen 😩The Dutchman speeds up to apologise to the McLaren driver shortly after #SaudiArabianGP #F1

Mercedes and Alpine appear to be clear of the group but both teams need a clean session to qualify at their potential. McLaren showed impressive pace in FP3 but, once again, there are question marks over what Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams could potentially achieve. Both Q1 and Q2 could serve a few surprises this weekend for the 2023 F1 Saudi Arabian GP.

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Edited by Shubham Banerjee
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