FP3: Bottas quickest as Leclerc impresses for Ferrari and unwell Stroll misses the session
After both Friday practice sessions were abandoned ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix, the drivers finally took to the Nurburgring track for the first time this weekend in FP3 on Saturday morning, with Valtteri Bottas quickest ahead of Lewis Hamilton, and an impressively fast Charles Leclerc.
The fog that had hung over the circuit all day on Friday had lifted, but conditions were still chilly when the pit lane exit opened for the first time at this race meeting, and the drivers were quick to get out for their first taste of the circuit – many of them never having driven it in F1 machinery as it returns to the calendar for the first time since 2013.
But one driver was missing in action, as Lance Stroll missed the entire session. Racing Point revealed he was not well, and question marks remain about whether he will be able to take part in qualifying. Nico Hulkenberg, who is at the track for broadcasting work, could sub in for him if the Canadian is unable to drive.
Meanwhile Mercedes looked to struggle early in the session as they wrestled with their DAS system to get some heat into the medium compound tyres, but the Silver Arrows rallied on softs after the 40-minute mark with Russian Grand Prix winner Bottas setting an eventual benchmark of 1m26.225s to go 0.136s faster than Hamilton.
FORMULA 1 ARAMCO GROSSER PREIS DER EIFEL 2020
Practice 3 results
|1 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||1:26.225|
|2 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.136s|
|3 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.456s|
|4 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+0.671s|
|5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.813s|
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc jumped to third, 0.456s off Bottas, late in the session and his team mate Sebastian Vettel hopped up to P5 in one of the most encouraging practice showings for the team in some time.
Between the Ferraris was Red Bull's Max Verstappen, his RB16 sporting new front-wing endplates this weekend. The Dutchman set the early benchmark on medium tyres before the soft tyre runs commenced, but complained of a lack of grip throughout the session. His team mate Alex Albon was ninth quickest.
Lando Norris managed sixth for McLaren, the last driver within a second of the leading time. He and team mate Carlos Sainz are not only sporting new parts this weekend but special helmets for World Mental Health Day.
Sole Racing Point driver Sergio Perez took seventh in FP3, just ahead of Renault's Daniel Ricciardo in what will be another tight midfield battle. Ricciardo's team mate Esteban Ocon split the AlphaTauris for P11.
Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 with his team mate Daniil Kvyat 12th for AlphaTauri.
Kimi Raikkonen becomes the most experienced F1 driver ever this weekend with his 323rd start and the Alfa Romeo driver took P14 ahead of the Haas duo, with Romain Grosjean 15th and Kevin Magnussen 16th. Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi managed to finish 18th.
George Russell took 17th after an off at the final chicane but his Williams team mate Nicholas Latifi topped that as he spun late on at the final corner and made a hash of rejoining, almost blocking the track with Ocon and Hamilton approaching at full speed. The Canadian finished 19th.
Racing Point will dominate the headlines before qualifying with Stroll missing FP3. Will he return on Saturday afternoon, or will someone else – Hulkenberg or possibly Stoffel Vandoorne – stand in? Stay tuned to F1.com for live coverage and updates.