Verstappen tops tight FP3 as Mercedes hits back

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen again proved fastest in practice for the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix in a competitive final practice session.

The Red Bull driver was just 0.096s quicker than Charles Leclerc, with Sergio Perez third best.

Mercedes had an improved showing with George Russell fourth fastest ahead of Lewis Hamilton in sixth, the pair split by Carlos Sainz.

Verstappen logged a 1:33.035s to move a worrying 0.762s clear of second-best Leclerc after 25 minutes.

The Ferrari driver was soon on track looking to improve only to suffer a snap of oversteer.

Picking up the throttle as he exited Turn 11, the rear of the car stepped out with the Monegasque driver overcorrecting and skating into the gravel on the exit of the left-hander.

For a moment it looked as though the F1-75 might reach the wall, but it pulled up in the gravel with Leclerc able to drive out and return to the garage.

With 25 minutes to run, Hamilton embarked on a flying lap which proved marginally faster than Verstappen through the first sector.

The Mercedes dropped a tenth in the middle sector, ending the lap 0.086s off the ultimate pace to that point.

It wasn’t a perfect lap, with a mixture of oversteer and understeer at points, though it was the most encouraging performance.

Russell then went fastest with a 1:32.935s while Carlos Sainz slotted in third with a 1:33.053s.

Leclerc then lifted the pace further, the Ferrari driver moving the bar to a 1:32.640s, 0.292s clear of Russell.

Verstappen promptly responded with a 1:32.544s as all three favoured teams from pre-season showed a little of their hand.

The surprise was Mercedes, which looked to have been struggling on Friday before making a clear step forward in FP3.

Perez was initially the odd-man-out, the Mexican just ninth fastest after battling a soft brake pedal early in the session.

That was corrected and he duly recorded the third fastest lap, a 1:32.791s.

It created a picture of Red Bull and Ferrari being nip and tuck, the former perhaps with the edge, with Mercedes snapping at their heels as the third fastest team.

In pit lane, there was a close call as Sainz was released into the path of Fernando Alonso, the Alpine having to stop to avoid contact in a moment noted by the stewards.

Shortly thereafter it was announced that the stewards would investigate the unsafe release.

Kevin Magnussen ended the session fastest with a promisingly strong lap for Haas, followed by the two Alfa Romeo Saubers.

Lando Norris was 11th and the best placed McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo ending the final 60-minute practice session 15th best.

The Australian sat out the opening 15 minutes as his crew continued to fix the water leak he experienced in Free Practice 2 on Friday.

Yuki Tusonda’s session was hindered even more, with a steering issue as he looked to exit the garage from the first time.

The AlphaTauri driver reported smelling oil as he switched the car off, unable to turn the wheel and ultimately failed to head out on track in the session.

With practice now complete, Qualifying is next up in Bahrain, starting from 02:00 AEDT.

Results: Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, Free Practice 3

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 14 1:32.544
2 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 15 1:32.640 +0.096s
3 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 19 1:32.791 +0.247s
4 63 George Russell Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 18 1:32.935 +0.391s
5 55 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Ferrari 19 1:33.053 +0.509s
6 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 14 1:33.121 +0.577s
7 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 14 1:33.437 +0.893s
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Team 20 1:33.733 +1.189s
9 24 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo F1 Team 17 1:33.880 +1.336s
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1 Team 13 1:33.920 +1.376s
11 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 17 1:33.955 +1.411s
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin F1 Team 17 1:33.971 +1.427s
13 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 17 1:34.176 +1.632s
14 47 Mick Schumacher Haas F1 Team 16 1:34.295 +1.751s
15 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team 19 1:34.378 +1.834s
16 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team 14 1:34.628 +2.084s
17 23 Alex Albon Williams Racing 14 1:34.868 +2.324s
18 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team 15 1:34.957 +2.413s
19 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing 13 1:35.667 +3.123s

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