The Mercedes-AMG juggernaut continued with the Silver Arrows recording yet another clean sweep of practice sessions at the French Grand Prix. As he had done in Friday’s second practice session, Valtteri Bottas edged out teammate Lewis Hamilton for top spot on the timesheets, while rivals Ferrari were left to play catch-up.
It seems all but certain that qualifying will see another front-row lockout for the reigning World Champions and all the evidence points towards the Brackley-based squad stretching their unbeaten run to eight Grand Prix victories by the end of Sunday’s race.
Bottas again showed off the F1 W10’s one-lap pace by breaking the Circuit Paul Ricard’s unofficial lap record with a time of 1:30.159, finishing 0.041 seconds clear of Hamilton in the final reckoning.
The two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel finished third- and fourth-fastest, with the youngster once again upstaging his four-time World Championship winning teammate who reportedly head seatbelt issues. The SF90 posted purple sectors through the lap’s first and second sector splits which tend to favour straight-line speed. It was in the third and final sector, however – where back-to-back changes of direction do not play to the Ferrari’s strengths – that the Mercedes’ dominated to the tune of over half a second.
That is not to say that Mercedes’ session was completely trouble-free. Both drivers had off-track moments when their cars’ handling snapped away, with Bottas taking to the escape road after a mistake at Turn 3, while Hamilton nearly swapped ends when he hit a bump through Turn 6.
While the gap between Mercedes and Ferrari stretched to roughly half a second, it was something of a chasm back to the other eight teams. Having been threatened to be upstaged by McLaren this weekend, Red Bull Racing claimed ‘best of the rest’ honours – albeit over 1.3 seconds off the pace – with Max Verstappen leading teammate Pierre Gasly.
Mere fractions behind were the McLarens, led by Lando Norris who was just five-hundredths of a second slower than Gasly and nearly a quarter of a second up on teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. The pair was split by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, while Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen rounded out the top-ten.
Bar a few trips through the circuit’s abundant tarmac run-off areas, the one-hour practice session was relatively devoid of major drama. The biggest concern was for George Russell, who managed just a handful of slow laps in his Williams before reporting a loss of power.
|FORMULA 1 PIRELLI GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:30.159||18|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:30.200||+ 0.041||15|
|3.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:30.605||+ 0.446||15|
|4.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:30.633||+ 0.474||13|
|5.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:31.538||+ 1.379||11|
|6.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:31.599||+ 1.440||14|
|7.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:31.654||+ 1.495||14|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:31.802||+ 1.643||12|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:31.887||+ 1.728||14|
|10.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:31.943||+ 1.784||16|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:32.023||+ 1.864||15|
|12.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:32.171||+ 2.012||15|
|13.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:32.178||+ 2.019||16|
|14.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:32.385||+ 2.226||15|
|15.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:32.400||+ 2.241||13|
|16.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:32.491||+ 2.332||15|
|17.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:32.540||+ 2.381||22|
|18.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:32.678||+ 2.519||14|
|19.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:33.902||+ 3.743||21|
|20.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:39.987||+ 9.828||4|
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport
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