Verstappen peerless in final practice
By Mat Coch
Saturday 19th June, 2021 - 9:11pm
Max Verstappen dominated the final practice session for this weekend’s Formula 1 French Grand Prix with a lap time that left him well clear of the competition.
The Dutchman recorded a 1:31.300s to shoot to the top of the timing screens in the second half of the session, an effort which left him more than 0.7s clear of Valtteri Bottas.
Carlos Sainz was third best from Sergio Perez while Lewis Hamilton again struggled in the Mercedes W12 chassis piloted by Bottas in Monaco and Azerbaijan.
The green light signalling the start of the session was met by a dearth of interest from the field.
Nikita Mazepin finally ended the silence on track, the first car out with 11 minutes having elapsed, Mick Schumacher following his Haas team-mate out on track.
Of the heavy hitters, Sergio Perez was the first to take to the circuit.
The Red Bull driver quickly went fastest, eclipsing the 1:34.966s set by Mazepin with a 1:33.775s.
As the Mexican completed his lap, a raft of drivers headed out on track.
Mazepin had a half spin at Turn 2, losing the rear and ruining his set of soft compound tyres in the process.
A third of the way through the session, Fernando Alonso had moved the pace on to 1:33.206s, 0.06s quicker than Daniel Ricciardo could manage a few minutes later.
Lewis Hamilton then recorded a 1:33.167s to go fastest, but it lasted for just seconds at the top of the screens as Bottas banged in a 1:32.346s.
Max Verstappen then recorded a 1:32.337s to inch ahead of the Mercedes pairing only for the order to swing again just minutes later, Bottas setting a 1:32.209s.
A snap of oversteer at Turn 6 saw Verstappen have his next time deleted, though had it stood the Dutchman would have moved 0.3s clear at the top of the timesheet.
Soon after, the circuit fell quiet again, with only Pierre Gasly and George Russell on track.
When action ramped back up, Hamilton improved to 1:32.266s when he crossed the line with 17 minutes remaining, closing to 0.2s of Bottas with the effort lap.
That’s because the Finn had moved on to 1:32.047s to underscore the advantage he seems to hold over his team-mate this weekend.
Ricciardo had also improved to sit fourth, his 1:32.759s leaving him 0.5s adrift of third-fastest Verstappen.
That was shuffled backwards when Perez and Carlos Sainz went faster, the latter banking a 1:32.195s to rise to second best with his Red Bull counterpart third.
Verstappen then hit the field with a sledgehammer, recording a 1:31.300s lap leaving him 0.747s clear of everyone.
Hamilton quickly looked to respond, the Brit within touching distance of his title-rival in the first split before haemorrhaging time in the middle third, and more still in the final sector to end up slower than his best of the session.
Verstappen climbed out of the car with five minutes, such was his confidence with his performance.
He ended the 60-minute hit out fastest from Bottas, Sainz and Perez, while Hamilton could do no better than fifth and 0.9s down on Verstappen.
Cars are next on track for qualifying, which commences at 23:00 AEST.
Results: Formula 1 French Grand Prix, Free Practice 3
|1||33||Max Verstappen||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:31.300||11|
|4||11||Sergio Perez||RED BULL RACING HONDA||1:32.238||+0.938s||15|
|6||4||Lando Norris||MCLAREN MERCEDES||1:32.336||+1.036s||14|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||ALPINE RENAULT||1:32.624||+1.324s||15|
|8||31||Esteban Ocon||ALPINE RENAULT||1:32.681||+1.381s||16|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||ALPHATAURI HONDA||1:32.707||+1.407s||16|
|10||3||Daniel Ricciardo||MCLAREN MERCEDES||1:32.759||+1.459s||14|
|12||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:33.017||+1.717s||17|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES||1:33.051||+1.751s||15|
|14||5||Sebastian Vettel||ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES||1:33.200||+1.900s||18|
|15||7||Kimi Räikkönen||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||1:33.328||+2.028s||16|
|16||63||George Russell||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:33.364||+2.064s||16|
|17||22||Yuki Tsunoda||ALPHATAURI HONDA||1:33.424||+2.124s||17|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||1:33.584||+2.284s||16|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||HAAS FERRARI||1:34.143||+2.843s||14|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||HAAS FERRARI||1:34.642||+3.342s||13|