Kimi Räikkönen has emerged as a contender to claim his first Bahrain Grand Prix pole position after continuing to set the pace in practice at the Sakhir circuit.
The Ferrari driver, who was fastest under floodlights in Friday evening’s second practice session, repeated the dose in final practice and enjoyed a half-second advantage over the rest of the field.
Admittedly, however, a number of his key challengers failed to post a truly representative lap time, given Saturday’s qualifying session will be held in much cooler conditions.
It took until almost halfway through the one-hour session before someone posted a lap time, with Renault’s Carlos Sainz doing the honours in sunny and hot temperatures with a pedestrian 1:33.893 effort.
That time was quickly beaten by Valtteri Bottas, whose Soft-tyre shod Mercedes went over three seconds quicker.
Once again, Lewis Hamilton – who will serve a five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race – could not match his teammate’s initial effort and lapped two-tenths of a second slower in the other Mercedes.
With just under half the session to run, Max Verstappen was able to split the Mercedes duo’s 1-2 position on the timesheets.
Ferrari struck next, first with Sebastian Vettel – who spent extra time in the garage while a fixing on his car’s bargeboard was repaired thanks to the German clobbering a trackside bollard – who bettered Bottas’ time with a 1:30.719.
Räikkönen then went out and lit up the timing screens with a purple-sector lap time of 1:29.868, narrowly slower than the time he managed in FP2 that took him to the top of the time sheets.
As track temperatures continued to fall over the course of the session, there was a flurry of late activity in the session that saw a succession of drivers post improved lap times.
Hamilton jumped into second-fastest – despite a scruffy sector where he ran very wide at the final corner – but he subsequently found himself beaten by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, who nearly hit Räikkönen as the Finn emerged from the pits.
Verstappen’s teammate and FP1 pacesetter Daniel Ricciardo lapped within one-tenth of a second to slot demote Hamilton to fourth. Vettel and Bottas secured fifth and sixth overall.
The two Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. posted late efforts to secure ‘best of the rest’ honours. The pair finished ahead of Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who once again continued his strong weekend with the ninth-best time ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
The final practice session of the Bahrain Grand Prix takes place on Saturday at 15:00 local time (GMT +3).
|FORMULA 1 2018 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3 TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:29.868||15|
|2.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:30.393||+ 0.525||8|
|3.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:30.452||+ 0.584||8|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:30.691||+ 0.823||14|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:30.719||+ 0.851||8|
|6.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:30.781||+ 0.913||16|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:31.144||+ 1.276||11|
|8.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:31.200||+ 1.332||12|
|9.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:31.438||+ 1.570||18|
|10.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:31.445||+ 1.577||13|
|11.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:31.460||+ 1.592||18|
|12.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:31.513||+ 1.645||14|
|13.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:31.554||+ 1.686||17|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:31.564||+ 1.696||14|
|15.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:31.737||+ 1.869||14|
|16.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:31.859||+ 1.991||17|
|17.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:31.860||+ 1.992||14|
|18.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:32.047||+ 2.179||19|
|19.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:32.463||+ 2.595||11|
|20.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:32.865||+ 2.997||12|
Image via Scuderia Ferrari