FP3: Verstappen leads once again with Mercedes running close behind
After returning on soft Pirellis, Verstappen was able to move his RB16B up the order once again, running 0.7s faster than Lewis Hamilton.
It was quiet on track this morning as FP3 got underway with track conditions reaching scorching heights of 52 degrees.
FP3 marks the team’s final chance to gain last-minute information around their 2021 contenders before they hit the track this afternoon for Qualifying.
Red Bull and Mercedes were neck-and-neck on the timesheets once again, however, it will be interesting to see how Bottas and Perez fare this afternoon against their respective teammates, who currently lead the way.
Yuki Tsunoda was the first out in the AT02, and after an impressive weekend of practice, the Japanese driver finished 13th fastest overall, ahead of qualifying this afternoon.
Valtteri Bottas swiftly made his way onto the track for an early start, understandably, after voicing his discontent with the W12 during FP2 yesterday – when he said the car was “undriveable”.
This morning, further difficulties were seen on Bottas’ flying lap when he missed his breaking point and headed onto the run-off area.
The Mercedes driver finished out the morning in P4, while his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who seems to be running with more stability, landed the second-fastest lap just over half a second off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Ferrari teammates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc landed in P6 and P11 at the end of this morning’s run, the Monegasque driver had a spin at turn three, finding himself in the gravel, however, he rejoined the track without any damage.
At the halfway point, AlphaTauri continued to show themselves to be a strong midfield runner throughout Practice this weekend and soft tyres for Pierre Gasly saw him enter the top spot for a brief moment at 1:32.321 with 21 minutes to go, putting him ahead of Verstappen.
However, after returning to the track on soft Pirellis, the Dutch driver was able to move his RB16B up the order once again, running 0.7s faster than Lewis Hamilton after clocking 1:30.577.
As Practice three came to a close, Alpine and Aston Martin have major question marks over their potential heading into qualifying this afternoon, whether or not they’ve been holding back so far is yet to be seen.
Esteban Ocon and returning champ Fernando Alonso ended the morning in P8 and P15 respectively while Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll P14 and P9.
Meanwhile, McLaren, who are showing some real speed so far, also fell down the order in this session – with Daniel Ricciardo in 10th, with Lando Norris down in 16th.
Qualifying kicks off in just a few hours at 3:00 pm Irish time, when fans will finally grasp the potential among each of the teams as they put their cars to the test.