FP3: Verstappen makes his mark ahead of qualifying

Date published: November 28 2020

Max Verstappen leaves the pits Red Bull

Max Verstappen laid down his marker ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, fastest in the final practice by 0.3s.

The Red Bull driver edged out the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

The track temperature was up to 32’C as FP3 began without any Turn 4 track limits and Alex Albon rolling out of the car with a brand new chassis. The Thai-British racer crashed heavily in Friday’s second practice, losing it at Turn 15. Such was the damage that Red Bull opted to change the survival cell overnight.

Williams were also busy overnight, the team breaking curfew because of a fuel system issue on Nicholas Latifi’s engine which required the whole system to be changed’.

Kimi Raikkonen got the timesheet rolling with a 1:31.2. A lock up and a trip off the circuit followed. He returned to the pits leaving the Williams team-mates as the only two out on track. George Russell was 0.2s slower with Latifi a further three-tenths down.

With those three the only drivers setting times in the first 20 minutes, Racing Point’s Otmar Szafnauer confirmed that most teams would be waiting for the track temperature to drop slightly so that it was more representative of what the drivers will experience during qualifying.

Shortly after more drivers ventured out with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi hitting the front before he was beaten by Lando Norris, Albon, Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez. The benchmark time was down to a 1:30.1 when Verstappen and the Mercedes team-mates, Hamilton and Bottas, came out to play.

Verstappen, running the soft tyres, hit the front with 1:29.6 with Hamilton three tenths down and Bottas’ first hot lap only good enough for tenth place. Sebastian Vettel, down in 19th place, wasn’t impressed with Russell feeling he had blocked his run. The Williams driver, though, was on a long run and that was his pace.

Another hot lap from Verstappen had him extending his advantage over Hamilton to four tenths despite seeming to have a DRS issue with the upper element of his rear wing flapping when he opened it. In contrast Hamilton’s second hot lap was 0.3s slower than his first.

The drivers ventured back into the pits, had a few tweaks made to the cars if they were needed, put on a fresh tyres and headed back out for a final run.

Bottas was the first to make a huge improvement, jumping up from 11th to first with a 1:28.7. Hamilton responded with a 1:28.6, a tenth up on his team-mate. Verstappen was the next of the front runners to cross the line. Purple in the first sector, and in the second, he posted a 1:28.3. That put him 0.263s faster than Hamilton.

Albon moved up fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz and Gasly.

Verstappen spent the final few minutes of the session in the pits as Red Bull worked on his rear wing’s DRS, sorting it out in just enough time to give the 23-year-old a last lap in order to check that the fix worked.

Meanwhile Mercedes and FIA tech delegate Jo Bauer had a chat while the Mercedes mechanics worked in the steering wheel area of Hamilton’s W11 on an electrical problem. He tried to get in a final lap but stopped at the end of the pit lane with Mercedes revealing he “just ran out of time before the end of the session”.

Norris, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll and Perez completed the top ten.

Times

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:28.355
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.263s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.366s
4 Alex Albon Red Bull 0.663s
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.100s
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.117s
7 Lando Norris McLaren 1.212s
8 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 1.230s
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1.305s
10 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1.329s
11 Esteban Ocon Renault 1.336s
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1.804s
13 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.504s
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.615s
15 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.828s
16 George Russell Williams 2.204s
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 2.297s
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2.404s
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 2.468s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 2.562s

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