In the final practice session before F1’s second sprint event of the season in Austria, Sainz continued his strong form after winning the British Grand Prix to edge out Leclerc by just 0.050s on the soft compound tyre. 

World championship leader Max Verstappen, who will start Saturday afternoon’s 24-lap sprint race from pole position after topping Friday qualifying, was third-quickest. 

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In contrast to the Ferrari pair, Verstappen posted his best time while running on medium tyres as he ended up 0.168s off the pace of Sainz’s benchmark in what is ultimately a fairly meaningless session. 

Fernando Alonso headed Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon in fourth, while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was over half a second down in sixth place. The Mexican qualified fourth but will drop to P13 for the sprint after having all of his Q3 lap times deleted for exceeding track limits. 

A herculean effort from Mercedes’ mechanics ensured both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton’s cars were fixed and able to take part in the hour-long session, following their qualifying crashes. 

Russell finished 0.6s off the pace in seventh ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and teammate Hamilton, who took part in the final 14 minutes of FP2 after Mercedes changed his chassis following his hefty Q3 crash. 

Russell and Hamilton will start the sprint race from fourth and ninth on the grid respectively.

Behind the Mercedes pair, Lando Norris completed the top 10 order in FP2 for McLaren. 

The sprint race gets underway at 3.30pm UK time, with Verstappen sharing the front row with his main championship rival Leclerc.