F1 driver Charles Leclerc drives his car during the third and final day of Formula One testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday Feb. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc set the fastest time on Saturday, beating Mercedes’ George Russell in the first session of the third and final day of Formula One testing.

Leclerc completed 67 laps and was 0.42 seconds quicker than Russell, who completed 83 laps on the medium tyres. Seven-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton will replace Russell aboard the W14 in the afternoon session.

With Lance Stroll still sidelined with a wrist injury following a cycling accident, Aston Martin returned to F2 champion Felipe Drugovich, who finished with the third fastest time – one second behind Leclerc.

Whether Stroll will recover in time for the first race of the season next weekend in Bahrain is uncertain. His teammate Fernando Alonso gave no indication of what will happen.

“There is no news,” admitted the double F1 champion. “This is a private matter, so I have nothing to comment on.”

Mexican Sergio Pérez took over from reigning two-time world champion Max Verstappen with Red Bull and set the fourth fastest time on medium tyres.

Shortly after the start of the session, the red flag went out to remove debris on the track that apparently belonged to the Mexican’s RB19.

Shortly after, the red flag came out again when Valtteri Bottas had to park his Alfa Romeo near the track.

Verstappen had the best time on Thursday and Zhou Guanyu was the fastest on Friday on day two.

The times give teams a rough guide to actual speed for the season due to the cars being set up in different ways.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown admitted on Friday that his team was behind on its projected targets.

Brown was in little reassurance after Australian Oscar Piastri spun around the track, although he recovered quickly.

Categorized in:

Tagged in:

, , , , ,