Max Verstappen has sustained Red Bull Racing’s unexpected pace in preparation for the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix by posting the fastest time in final practice.

After his teammate Daniel Ricciardo had run inside the top-three in Friday’s two practice sessions, many expected the championship frontrunners, Mercedes and Ferrari, to show an increased level of pace before this evening’s qualifying session.

That proved not to be the case – for now, at least – with Verstappen moving to the top of the timesheets late in the one-hour session. His time of 1:32.194 on Super soft tyres put him 0.11 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in the final reckoning.

With qualifying taking place after sunset and in what are expected to be cooler conditions, most of the field held off until late in the session before attempting a qualifying-style run.

Underscoring this, the Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr were atop the timing screens at the session’s halfway point. Valtteri Bottas looked set to easily topple the pair with purple sectors on his flying lap, but he locked up at the final corner and toured through the run-off to destroy his potential lap time.

Windy conditions proved to be tricky for the field, with a number of drivers sliding off the track at the exit of Turn 4 and the final corner as they respectively struck strong tailwind and headwind gusts throughout the session.

Verstappen had a dramatic moment at Turn 4 when his car got tail-happy on the exit kerbs, but Haas’ Romain Grosjean fared worse in a near identical incident a few minutes later. The Frenchman – who had just fitted a new front wing after complaining of poor handling – lost the rear end of his car and slid nose-first into the tyre wall on the inside of the circuit, damaging his front wing.

The session was briefly red-flagged, but Grosjean was able to recover to the pits unaided and later returned to the track to improve on his fastest lap time.

Once the session was restarted, Ferrari finally sent its two drivers out on track, with Kimi Räikkönen going quickest – despite also sliding off at the final corner. He was soon relegated to second place by his countryman Bottas, before the pair was overhauled by Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen.

Saturday’s qualifying session at the Bahrain International Circuit will begin at 18:00 local time (GMT +3).

Driver Team / Entry Time Tyre Laps
1. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:32.194 Pirelli Super Soft 8
2. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:32.304 Pirelli Super Soft 10
3. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:32.750 Pirelli Super Soft 10
4. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:32.754 Pirelli Super Soft 13
5. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:32.785 Pirelli Super Soft 9
6. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:32.801 Pirelli Super Soft 12
7. Daniel Ricciardo au Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:32.809 Pirelli Super Soft 8
8. Nico Hülkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:32.933 Pirelli Super Soft 9
9. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:33.604 Pirelli Super Soft 18
10. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:33.744 Pirelli Super Soft 11
11. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:33.916 Pirelli Super Soft 14
12. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:33.922 Pirelli Super Soft 10
13. Pascal Wehrlein de Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:33.947 Pirelli Super Soft 15
14. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:33.965 Pirelli Super Soft 15
15. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda MP4-31 1:34.027 Pirelli Super Soft 15
16. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:34.064 Pirelli Super Soft 17
17. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:34.198 Pirelli Super Soft 13
18. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:34.205 Pirelli Super Soft 14
19. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:34.268 Pirelli Super Soft 15
20. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:34.417 Pirelli Super Soft 11

Image via Red Bull Racing

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.