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Austrian GP: Max Verstappen stamps authority ahead of F1 Qualifying with searing Practice Three pace

Watch Austrian Grand Prix qualifying at 2pm live on Sky Sports F1, with build-up from 1pm; Verstappen comfortably outpaces Mercedes drivers in final practice; Hamilton's new two-year Mercedes deal announced ahead of session

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Yuki Tsunoda does very well to keep his AlphaTauri out of the barriers in a wild spin across the exit and grass at turn nine

F1 championship leader Max Verstappen consolidated his status as favourite for back-to-back poles at the Red Bull Ring by setting a searing pace in final practice for the Austrian GP.

Although Lewis Hamilton had topped Friday's running, the Mercedes driver was expecting a response from Red Bull on Saturday - and that is how it played out in the hour's running of final practice.

Verstappen, who completed the fewest laps of anyone in the session, posted a fastest lap of 1:04.591 to outpace Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas by half a second.

Hamilton was third-quickest and, although he would have been second but for a track-limits violation at Turn 10 which saw his best lap deleted, even then his deficit would have been four tenths of a second to the lead Red Bull.

"Four tenths around this circuit is a big, big margin," said Sky F1's Karun Chandhok.

Hamilton went into the session on the back of the announcement of a new two-year contract at Mercedes, which will keep him in F1 until the end of the 2023 season. But his challenge to turn the tide against the in-form Verstappen-Red Bull combination this weekend remains a formidable one.

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Paul Di Resta, Johnny Herbert, and Karun Chandhok discuss Lewis Hamilton's new deal with Mercedes that keeps him with the team until the 2023 season

Pierre Gasly, who qualified sixth last week, was fourth quickest in P3 ahead of the impressive Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.

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Carlos Sainz was sixth in the lead Ferrari, ahead of Sergio Perez whose weekend in the second Red Bull has yet to see the Mexican feature towards the top of the timesheet.

Lando Norris has been a perennial feature in the top 10 this season but finished down in 15th place in this session after several off-track moments. Nonetheless, this was still one place ahead of McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Yuki Tsunoda was involved in the session's most spectacular moment with the AlphaTauri driver going for a wild spin across the grass at Turn Nine.

Austrian GP Practice Three Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:04.591
2) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +0.538
3) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.686
4) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +0.689
5) Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +0.754
6) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.756
7) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.805
8) Fernando Alonso Alpine +0.843
9) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.893
10) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +0.951
11) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +0.955
12) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +0.970
13) Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.083
14) George Russell Williams +1.103
15) Lando Norris McLaren +1.109
16) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +1.134
17) Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo +1.156
18) Mick Schumacher Haas +1.487
19) Nicholas Latifi Williams +1.514
20) Nikita Mazepin Haas +1.698

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