FP3: Mercedes 1-2 as Red Bull struggle with wings

Date published: November 20 2021 - Michelle Foster

Valtteri Bottas climbing into his W12. Qatar November 2021

Valtteri Bottas topped a Mercedes 1-2 as Red Bull’s rear wing actuator issues continued in final practice in Qatar.

Another hot session awaited the drivers as the pit lane light turned green and Mick Schumacher was first out on track for Haas.

His team-mate Nikita Mazepin, who is running a new old chassis for the remainder of this weekend after Russian driver having damaged it on the kerbs in FP1, followed him out.

Needing as much running as possible, he found himself stuck at the end of the pit lane as he told Haas that the “car did not sound right, the engine sounded different”. An aborted start for the Haas driver and the rest of the field as the red flags were waved for his stationary VF-21.

Haas reported that Mazepin’s car needed a new engine control unit fitted, the Russian driver out of the session.

While all that was going on, Red Bull were once again busy with a rear wing, this time working on both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez’s RB16Bs.

Schumacher was the first man out again after the red flag, but pitted before setting a time. As such it wasn’t until 11 minutes into the session that Esteban Ocon clocked the first time for FP3, a 1:24.864.

Valtteri Bottas was the next to hit the front before he was pipped by Lewis Hamilton, the first driver into the 1:23s for the session while Perez went wide at Turn 14, pitting after for a new front wing, and Pierre Gasly spun at Turn 2.

Fernando Alonso went quickest on the medium tyres, but that didn’t last long with Bottas and then Hamilton jumping ahead.

The reigning World Champion posted a 1:23.152 as his title rival, Verstappen, finally ventured out of the pits halfway through the session. He immediately went P1, a 1:23.121. Carlos Sainz was up to third.

The tussle between the Mercedes drivers and Verstappen continued with Bottas using a tow from Ocon to go quickest by 0.082s ahead of Hamilton. Verstappen upped his pace, but stayed third. And then he was back in the Red Bull garage for yet more work to be done on his rear wing actuator with the DRS flag clearly, well, flapping when open.

Charles Leclerc joined his team-mate up near the front, P4 to Sainz’s P5, with Gasly sixth quickest. Sainz asked Ferrari to check his floor after a moment over the Turn 3 kerbs. A few minutes later it was the other Ferrari, Leclerc, in trouble as he lost the rear out of Turn 2 and went off into the gravel.

Verstappen was back out for a late run, one that was almost ruined by a spinning Schumacher. The German kept the engine running and was able to return to the Haas garage.

The session ended with Mercedes 1-2, Bottas 0.078s up on Hamilton, Red Bull 3-4, Verstappen 0.341s off the pace with Sergio Perez a further two-tenths down, and Sainz fifth ahead of Gasly, Alonso and Leclerc.

Lance Stroll finished down in 16th place having told Aston Martin that his car was *beep*. He was told to take it easy as he banged his steering wheel in frustration.

Times

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:22.310 17 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.078s 16 laps
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.341s 10 laps
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 0.525s 17 laps
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.536s 13 laps
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.738s 17 laps
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.876s 13 laps
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine 0.899s 18 laps
9 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.966s 17 laps
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1.257s 20 laps
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.401s 14 laps
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.574s 17 laps
13 Lando Norris McLaren 1.585s 16 laps
14 George Russell Williams 1.613s 17 laps
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.844s 17 laps
16 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.936s 19 laps
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.978s 17 laps
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.189s 15 laps
19 Mick Schumacher Haas 2.370s 20 laps
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas no time