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).
|2017 FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3 RESULTS|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Tyre||Laps|
|1.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:32.194||8|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:32.304||10|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:32.750||10|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08||1:32.754||13|
|5.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF70H||1:32.785||9|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:32.801||12|
|7.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13||1:32.809||8|
|8.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:32.933||9|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:33.604||18|
|10.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12||1:33.744||11|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:33.916||14|
|12.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren-Honda MP4-31||1:33.922||10|
|13.||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:33.947||15|
|14.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40||1:33.965||15|
|15.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren-Honda MP4-31||1:34.027||15|
|16.||Esteban Ocon||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10||1:34.064||17|
|17.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:34.198||13|
|18.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17||1:34.205||14|
|19.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36||1:34.268||15|
|20.||Jolyon Palmer||Renault Sport F1 Team RS17||1:34.417||11|
Image via Red Bull Racing