Mercedes claimed yet another 1-2 in France as Valtteri Bottas set the pace in final practice, edging his team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Another warm day and hot track awaited the drivers at the start of Saturday’s FP3 with the track temperature up to 48’C. That meant another session of gooey soft tyres that would begin graining after just a handful of laps.
Robert Kubica, Daniil Kvyat and both Renaults each had a brief stint up in P1 but that ended when the Mercedes drivers came out to play, both on the soft tyres.
Valtteri Bottas went quickest with a 1:31.3 and while it initially looked as if Charles Leclerc would challenge his time, the Ferrari driver – running the new front and rear wing – lost time in the final sector.
Bottas may have been fastest of all but even the Finn was struggling to keep it on the track as he lost it at Turn 5 after a lock up.
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The Mercedes drivers continued their battle for P1 with Lewis Hamilton hitting the front only for Bottas to fight back. The P1 time down to a 1:30.8 at the halfway point.
Both drivers, along with the Ferraris, returned to the pits before heading back out with 20 minutes remaining to put in a final burst in a qualifying simulation.
Bottas was the first to venture out, going purple in all three sectors on his way to a 1:30.159. Despite his fantastic time, his engineer informed him that there is “still time to find in Turn 8”.
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Hamilton’s first flying lap was undone by a bump that forced him into a small mistake leading to the Brit backing off. His next saw him stay second but only 0.041s down on Bottas.
The Ferraris went third and fourth with Leclerc 0.4s down while Sebastian Vettel was six-tenths off the pace.
Max Verstappen was fifth in the RB15 despite its updated Honda engine while Pierre Gasly was sixth.
Lando Norris was once again best of the rest ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz with the Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen up in P10.
There were problems for George Russell, who reported “no power” and limped his way back to the pits with just three laps on the board. He ventured out for a fourth only to report the same problem. He finished P20, nine seconds off the pace.
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30.159
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.041s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.446s
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.474s
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1.379s
6 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1.440s
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1.495s
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1.643s
9 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.728s
10 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.784s
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1.864s
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 2.012s
13 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 2.019s
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 2.226s
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2.241s
16 Sergio Perez Racing Point 2.332s
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 2.381s
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point 2.519s
19 Robert Kubica Williams 3.743s
20 George Russell Williams 9.828s