FP3: Leclerc heads Vettel and Bottas ahead of Mexico qualifying
A late flurry of activity in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix saw Charles Leclerc confirm Ferrari’s pace advantage, the Monegasque lapping just 0.027s ahead of team mate Sebastian Vettel, as Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas finished 0.114s down on Leclerc’s time.
With the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez damp when FP3 was greenlit, there was little representative running going on in the first 45 minutes of the session, as a number of drivers went out on intermediates to perform systems checks and get a feel for the conditions.
But with 15 minutes to go and the track rapidly drying, the drivers bolted on dry tyres and went for it, with Leclerc popping a time of 1m 16.145s in right at the end of FP3 to take the honours, ahead of Vettel and Bottas.
Behind the front three, Lewis Hamilton survived early fears of power drop-outs in his Mercedes W10 to go fourth, while despite the limited running, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz none the less impressed to go P5, ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – the Dutchman held up by an Alfa Romeo on one of his final push laps.
FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE MÉXICO 2019
Practice 3 results
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||1:16.145|
|2 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.027s|
|3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.114s|
|4 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.236s|
|5 Carlos Sainz SAI McLaren||+0.493s|
Pierre Gasly braved a reported bout of stomach trouble to underline Toro Rosso’s strong pace from Friday, the Frenchman going seventh, having not made it into his STR14 until the final quarter of an hour of FP3. He was ahead of the second Red Bull of Alex Albon – driving a new RB15 chassis after his crash at Turn 7 on Friday – with the top 10 closed out by McLaren’s Lando Norris and the Racing Point of local hero Sergio Perez.
The Renaults weren’t having a good time of it, meanwhile, a pollution on one of the cooling systems of Daniel Ricciardo’s car discovered ahead of the session which prevented him from going out – before Nico Hulkenberg’s sister car was diagnosed with the same issue halfway through FP3, consigning him to the garage before he could set a time. Renault planned to use the time ahead of qualifying to carefully clean the system.
They thus finished at the back of the field, although of the teams that set times, it was the Williams pair of George Russell and Robert Kubica who were effectively last, Russell’s best lap nearly five seconds off the pace.
So, perhaps not the most representative running – and yet, for the second free practice session in a row, it was Ferrari who looked to be the team to beat. Roll on qualifying.