FP3: Hamilton in the hot seat after leading Verstappen in final Abu Dhabi practice
Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time ahead of Max Verstappen in the final hour of practice in Abu Dhabi – with the all-important qualifying session to come.
Held in brighter, hotter conditions than the following qualifying and Grand Prix, FP3 saw the majority of drivers begin on hard-compound tyres. However, the Red Bulls started out on mediums and the Mercedes drivers opted to start the session on softs before qualifying runs came thick and fast at the end of FP3.
Mid-way through the session, Hamilton set the fastest time of the weekend of 1m23.274s, going 0.751s clear of team mate Valtteri Bottas (P3), the medium-shod Red Bulls more than 1.5s behind in the early stages.
Neither Mercedes driver improved on their respective times when rivals began soft-tyred qualifying runs at the end of the session. When he did equip softs, Verstappen did improve to P2, two-tenths off his rival Hamilton. He lost two flying efforts, however, the first to a lock-up at Turn 6 and another to a snap of oversteer at Turn 9.
Verstappen's team mate Sergio Perez secured fourth, 0.02s behind Bottas, with his final effort to leave McLaren's Lando Norris under a tenth behind in P5.
FORMULA 1 ETIHAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX 2021
Abu Dhabi 2021
Practice 3 results
|1 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||1:23.274|
|2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+0.214s|
|3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.751s|
|4 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.773s|
|5 Lando Norris NOR McLaren||+0.832s|
Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly were well into the top 10 using medium tyres early on, eventually finishing sixth and seventh respectively after their soft-tyred salvos for AlphaTauri.
Ferrari switched from hard tyres to mediums after the halfway mark, Carlos Sainz finishing eighth and team mate Charles Leclerc 10th, Daniel Ricciardo between them in P9.
Aston Martin's Lance Stroll shot from the bottom of the timesheets to 11th using soft tyres later on, while Alpine's Esteban Ocon took P12 on medium tyres.
Kimi Raikkonen shrugged off his FP2 crash to end up 13th and a hundredth faster than P14 team mate Antonio Giovinazzi – both on softs – to leave Alpine's Fernando Alonso 15th on mediums.
Sebastian Vettel was 16th on softs as he struggled for pace in his Aston Martin, while Williams' George Russell and Nicholas Latifi occupied 17th and 18th.
That left the Haas pair – Mick Schumacher 19th and a second faster than team mate Nikita Mazepin – at the back of the order.
So this is it: no more practice sessions – just an all-crucial qualifying session (at 1300 local time) and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.