July 27, 2019 / 12:02 PM / 3 months ago

Motor racing: Leclerc completes practice clean sweep for Ferrari in Germany

HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Charles Leclerc completed a practice clean sweep for Ferrari on Saturday with a scorching lap in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Formula One German Grand Prix.

Formula One F1 - German Grand Prix - Hockenheimring, Hockenheim, Germany - July 27, 2019 Ferrari's Charles Leclerc ahead of qualifying REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The Monegasque, who was also fastest on Friday, set a time of one minute, 12.380 seconds on a cloudy morning at the Hockenheim circuit.

Max Verstappen was second for Red Bull, 0.168 seconds off the pace.

The Dutchman’s late effort relegated home hero Sebastian Vettel to third, denying Ferrari three-straight top-two practice lockouts.

Valtteri Bottas was the lead Mercedes driver in fourth ahead of Lewis Hamilton who was only sixth as the German marque, who are celebrating 125 years of motorsport involvement this weekend with a one-off livery and 1950s-style team kit, seemed to struggle.

Heading into the weekend Hamilton, who leads the standings by 39 points from Bottas having won seven of ten races, had warned the dominant champions would be in trouble if a European heat-wave kept temperatures high.

But the two silver cars, half a second off Leclerc’s best, appeared to be closer on Friday when track temperatures touched 50 degrees Celsius compared to Saturday when it was cooler.

Kevin Magnussen was an impressive fifth for Haas ahead of Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz was seventh for McLaren ahead of Pierre Gasly, the Frenchman — who had crashed his Red Bull on Friday — running a new chassis.

Kimi Raikkonen was ninth for Alfa Romeo and Romain Grosjean rounded out the top-10 for Haas.

Ferrari’s pace in the final practice session bodes well for the Maranello-based squad heading into qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

The Italian team are yet to win so far this year and last triumphed at Hockenheim in 2012.  

Vettel, who crashed out from the lead last year in Germany, will be hoping to find some speed and take the fight to his young team mate around a track that is located just a half hour’s drive from his home town.

Mercedes have won all but one of the ten races this season.

Reporting by Abhishek Takle in Hockenheim; editing by Christian Radnedge

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