FP3: Verstappen well clear, Hamilton still cut adrift

Mark Scott
Max Verstappen Red Bull

Max Verstappen Red Bull

Max Verstappen sent a statement in the final practice at Paul Ricard, finishing seven tenths clear at the top of the timesheet in France.

The World Championship leader pumped in a 1:31.300 in the final quarter of the session to sit well ahead of nearest rival Valtteri Bottas in P2; a still out-of-sorts Hamilton finished down in P5 with both Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez able to be quicker.

Elsewhere, McLaren and Alpine look to be best prepared of the rest as both of their cars finished inside the top 10.

With quite a lot of cloud cover hovering above the Paul Ricard circuit, track temperature was some 10 degrees lower than what the drivers were having to face on Friday.

However, as the track light went green, there was no immediate rush from anyone to head out there and take full advantage of the cooler conditions.

It took all of 11 minutes for the first driver to appear on track and took all of 25 minutes for the track action to properly heat up with the first collection of hot laps.

After their first attempts, it was Verstappen who held the early advantage with a 1:32.337 but he was just 0.009 seconds ahead of Bottas. The Dutchman wasn’t particularly happy with his lap, though, calling his first effort “sh*t”.

Both drivers kept the same red soft tyres strapped on for a second hot lap attempt and both found improvement. Bottas retook top spot with a 1:32.309 and Verstappen found an extra three tenths on that time – but he exceeded track limits at Turn 6 and had that lap deleted by the FIA.

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Meanwhile, Hamilton found himself a little cut adrift from the P1 as he found himself 0.358 seconds off the pace with 25 minutes of the session remaining. Some minor repair work was needed to the underside of his car before he headed back out for another push lap.

There was minor improvement from Hamilton, but it was nothing to trouble Bottas at the top of the timesheet as there was still a two-tenth gap in play. Bottas, meanwhile scrubbed his latest effort after going off the track at Turn 2.

Hamilton began to fall back down the timesheet as both Sainz and Perez managed to sandwich the two Mercedes drivers.

However, it wasn’t long before Verstappen was making everyone standing up and take notice as he shot to the top of timesheet by seven tenths. Message sent.

Hamilton had zero response to that eye-catching lap from Verstappen, 1.2 seconds slower on his follow-up effort, and neither did anyone else for that matter.

Advantage Red Bull it seems, heading into qualifying…

FP3 timesheet

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:31.300 11 laps
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.747s 14
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.895s 17
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.938s 15
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.966s 15
6 Lando Norris McLaren 1.036s 14
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 1.324s 15
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.381s 16
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.407s 16
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.459s 14
11 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.520s 15
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.717s 17
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.751s 15
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.900s 18
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 2.028s 16
16 George Russell Williams 2.064s 16
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 2.124s 17
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.284s 16
19 Mick Schumacher Haas 2.843s 14
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas 3.342s 13

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