FP3: Verstappen well clear of Mercedes ahead of qualy
Max Verstappen sent a statement in the final practice at Paul Ricard, finishing seven tenths clear at the top of the timesheet in France.
The World Championship leader pumped in a 1:31.300 in the final quarter of the session to sit well ahead of nearest rival Valtteri Bottas in P2; a still out-of-sorts Hamilton finished down in P5 with both Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez able to be quicker.
Elsewhere, McLaren and Alpine look to be best prepared of the rest as both of their cars finished inside the top 10.
With quite a lot of cloud cover hovering above the Paul Ricard circuit, track temperature was some 10 degrees lower than what the drivers were having to face on Friday.
However, as the track light went green, there was no immediate rush from anyone to head out there and take full advantage of the cooler conditions.
It took all of 11 minutes for the first driver to appear on track and took all of 25 minutes for the track action to properly heat up with the first collection of hot laps.
After their first attempts, it was Verstappen who held the early advantage with a 1:32.337 but he was just 0.009 seconds ahead of Bottas. The Dutchman wasn’t particularly happy with his lap, though, calling his first effort “sh*t”.
Both drivers kept the same red soft tyres strapped on for a second hot lap attempt and both found improvement. Bottas retook top spot with a 1:32.309 and Verstappen found an extra three tenths on that time – but he exceeded track limits at Turn 6 and had that lap deleted by the FIA.
A brilliant lap by @Max33Verstappen 🤩
But unfortunately track limits ruling strikes, and his time is deleted ❌#FrenchGP 🇫🇷 #F1 pic.twitter.com/CwnMIoAFi2
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 19, 2021
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Meanwhile, Hamilton found himself a little cut adrift from the P1 as he found himself 0.358 seconds off the pace with 25 minutes of the session remaining. Some minor repair work was needed to the underside of his car before he headed back out for another push lap.
There was minor improvement from Hamilton, but it was nothing to trouble Bottas at the top of the timesheet as there was still a two-tenth gap in play. Bottas, meanwhile scrubbed his latest effort after going off the track at Turn 2.
Hamilton began to fall back down the timesheet as both Sainz and Perez managed to sandwich the two Mercedes drivers.
However, it wasn’t long before Verstappen was making everyone standing up and take notice as he shot to the top of timesheet by seven tenths. Message sent.
Hamilton had zero response to that eye-catching lap from Verstappen, 1.2 seconds slower on his follow-up effort, and neither did anyone else for that matter.
Advantage Red Bull it seems, heading into qualifying…
Timesheet to follow…
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