ZANDVOORT, Netherlands – Ferrari and Mercedes dampened Formula One champion Max Verstappen’s homecoming party with the fastest times in practice for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort on Friday.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fastest in the second session at the seaside circuit with a best lap of one minute 12.345 seconds.

Team mate Carlos Sainz was second on the timing screens, a mere 0.004 slower, with Mercedes’ seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton third and 0.072 off the pace.

Red Bull’s runaway world championship leader Verstappen was only eighth but seemingly set on a race simulation with a full fuel load.

McLaren’s Lando Norris was fourth ahead of Mercedes’ George Russell, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen did only seven laps in the first session before being sidelined by a gearbox problem that left him as much of a spectator as the ranks of orange-clad fans crowding the grandstands.

Russell was fastest around the tight and twisty layout in 1:12.455 in the first session, 0.240 ahead of Hamilton and Sainz.

“Something went with the gearbox,” Verstappen told his race engineer over the radio after stopping with 10 minutes on the clock.

“We lost drive whilst he took a shift from fourth to fifth,”said team boss Christian Horner. “We have to get it turned around quickly for the next session.”

Verstappen’s Mexican team mate Sergio Perez was seventh and 12th in the sessions respectively.

“Sergio usually feels his way into a P1 and there were certain things he wasn’t happy with about the car,” Horner said of Perez after the first stint.

Verstappen, 19th of 20 in the session, is 93 points clear of Perez with eight races remaining and will be chasing his 10th win of the season on Sunday. REUTERS

Last modified: September 3, 2022