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Charles Leclerc sets the pace in final practice as Lewis Hamilton struggles

Charles Leclerc sets the pace in final practice as Lewis Hamilton struggles
Mercedes have struggled to get on top of the new regulations

Lewis Hamilton finished only 11th in final practice for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc set the pace.

Twenty-four hours after a missile strike on a nearby oil refinery, the drivers were back on track for the concluding action ahead of qualifying on Saturday evening.

Hamilton and his fellow drivers were understood to have signalled their intention not to take part in Sunday’s race following the attack just 12 miles east of the Jeddah street circuit.

But after seeking assurances from Saudi officials, F1 bosses declared the second round of the new season “secure”, and it was Leclerc who led the way.

Leclerc, who won last weekend’s opening round in Bahrain, snatched the fastest time away from Max Verstappen in the final seconds.

Verstappen, denied second place in Bahrain following a late fuel failure, finished just 0.033 seconds behind Leclerc, and ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Charles Leclerc finished fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian GP (Hassan Ammar/AP)
Charles Leclerc finished fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Saudi Arabian GP (Hassan Ammar/AP)

Carlos Sainz was fourth in the other Ferrari, with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas fifth.

Mercedes have struggled to get on top of the new regulations and Hamilton finished a concerning 0.972 seconds off the pace, with team-mate George Russell even further back in 14th. British driver Lando Norris was only 19th for McLaren.

Qualifying takes place at 8pm local time (5pm UK).