Verstappen tops tight FP3 as Mercedes hits back
By Mat Coch
Sunday 20th March, 2022 - 12:13am
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
|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|