FP3: Leclerc and Ferrari extend Baku advantage
Lewis Hamilton predicted on Friday that Mercedes closing the gap to Ferrari significantly overnight would be tough – and he was right.
After 60 minutes of final practice in Azerbaijan this afternoon the scarlet cars of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel led the third-placed Red Bull of Max Verstappen by over a second, with Mercedes forced to settle for fourth and fifth.
After Friday’s dramas, it was a remarkably incident-free session, with Leclerc enjoying a two-tenths’ advantage over his more experienced team mate. Behind them – by quite some margin – came Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.
FORMULA 1 SOCAR AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2019
Practice 3 results
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||1:41.604|
|2 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.198s|
|3 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+1.248s|
|4 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+1.460s|
|5 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+1.572s|
Hot on the heels of the silver cars came a very close midfield pack, headed by Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and rookie team mate Alex Albon - who almost came together with the flying McLaren of Carlos Sainz at one point - split by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. The Dane's team mate Romain Grosjean, by contrast, could manage no better than 17th as his struggled with tyres.
Baku specialist Sergio Perez gave Racing Point a top-ten placing in ninth, while Kimi Raikkonen completed the top ten for Alfa Romeo, with team mate Antonio Giovinazzi - who has a 10-place grid drop for power unit changes - all but matching the Finn in 12th.
What of Verstappen’s Red Bull team mate you ask? Pierre Gasly – who knows he will start Sunday’s race from the pit lane thanks to a weighbridge infringement in FP2, and hence may choose not to participate in qualifying later – finished last behind the two Williams, obviously focusing on race preparation work.
At Williams, George Russell recovered well in his rebuilt car - necessary after Friday's drain-cover hit - to end the hour just four-tenths behind team mate Robert Kubica.
The bigger question now is can anyone prevent a Ferrari front-row lockout? We'll know in a little under three hours...