Motor racing-Hamilton fastest ahead of Verstappen in final Hungarian GP practice

Formula One F1 - Hungarian Grand Prix - Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary - July 31, 2021 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in action during practice REUTERS/David W Cerny

(Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton kept Mercedes at the top of the timesheets, pipping Red Bull championship rival Max Verstappen in Saturday's final practice session for the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix.

The Briton, who trails Verstappen by eight points in the overall standings, lapped the 4.3-kilometer long Hungaroring in one minute, 16.826 seconds, beating the Dutchman by just 0.088 seconds.

Valtteri Bottas, who knocked Verstappen off the top of the timesheets to set the pace on Friday's opening day of practice, was third in the other Mercedes, 0.229 seconds off his team mate's benchmark.

The final session of practice, once again run in sweltering heat with track temperatures climbing above 50 degrees Celsius, set up a thrilling battle qualifying between the two title protagonists, with Verstappen gunning for his fifth successive pole and Hamilton his first in six races.

Tensions between the pair are high heading into the weekend after they collided at the last race in Britain, which resulted in a heavy crash for Verstappen with Hamilton overcoming a 10-second time penalty to win.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz, the power unit in his Ferrari changed overnight, was fourth ahead of team mate Charles Leclerc.

Briton Lando Norris was sixth for McLaren ahead of Verstappen's team mate Sergio Perez.

Daniel Ricciardo was eighth in his McLaren ahead of Fernando Alonso, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Thursday and was ninth for Alpine.

Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10.

The hour-long session was briefly halted when Mick Schumacher spun off into the barriers at Turn 11. It wasn't immediately clear if his Haas would be repaired in time for qualifying.

Alfa Romeo's Anotonio Giovinazzi made contact with Stroll in the pit lane after he was sent out into the path of the Canadian's Aston Martin.

The Italian drew the attention of the cameras only minutes later for impeding the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly on a flying lap.

(Reporting by Abhishek Takle; editing by Ed Osmond)

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