The weekend’s first wholly dry session produced a clamour to log mileage on the medium tyre, where Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly logged the first benchmarks before an unwelcome hiatus in the running emerged.

Zhou Guanyu produced the second red flag of the weekend with a spin at Turn 2, losing the rear on the exit of the first corner to tuck his Sauber into the grass backwards.

On the restart, Max Verstappen put his Red Bull top with a 1m15.495s and then grabbed a 1m14.983s, although this was subsequently beaten by Fernando Alonso’s 1m14.870s – the Spaniard bucking the trend by running on the hard tyre.

The Aston Martin driver took his effort down to a 1m14.445s to bring the medium runs to an end, as the attention subsequently switched to soft-tyre runs in preparation for qualifying.

Logan Sargeant kicked the C5 runs off with a 1m14.355s, but the Williams driver was chiselled out of his rare appearance at the top end of the timesheets by George Russell. Alex Albon then took the benchmark below the 74-second mark as further improvements emerged – Charles Leclerc took a turn at the top of the order before being displaced by Lewis Hamilton.

The Briton stayed at the top for a healthy chunk of the session, briefly overlapped by team-mate Russell, but reclaimed his advantage with an impressive 1m12.549s – 0.725s clear of his team-mate’s best effort.

Hamilton’s time remained top of the order for the rest of the session, but few could get close until the session moved towards its climax; Russell got to within half a second before being beaten by Verstappen – who touched the Turn 14 wall before setting a 1m12.923s, still 0.374s away from Hamilton’s headliner.

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Lance Stroll claimed fourth in the times, the only other driver within half a second of Hamilton, while Oscar Piastri was fifth ahead of compatriot Daniel Ricciardo.

Lando Norris and Alonso followed, ahead of Perez and Charles Leclerc among the top 10 – Leclerc finding that his Ferrari was “slow” in the opening corners, and was told he was losing 0.3s in the left-right complex.