FP3: Dominant Leclerc fastest at Hockenheim ahead of Verstappen
In the final session ahead of what’s set to be a riveting and potentially rain-affected qualifying at Hockenheim, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc issued a statement of intent by topping FP3, the Monegasque finishing ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
With the rain holding off and the air temperature back at a more comfortable 26 degrees – having peaked at 36 during FP2 on Friday – Leclerc looked supreme around Hockenheim, becoming the first driver to dip below the 1m 13s mark this weekend before ultimately stopping the clocks with a 1m 12.380s, meaning that Ferrari headed their third straight session of the weekend.
A fine effort from Red Bull’s Verstappen, however, saw the Dutchman get to within 0.168s of Leclerc’s effort, surprising given that his team had appeared to lack pace throughout Friday compared to Ferrari and Mercedes, while Sebastian Vettel was third, 0.264s off his team mate’s time.
Worryingly for Mercedes on a weekend where they celebrate their 125th year of involvement in motorsports, Valtteri Bottas, was their best placed driver in fourth, but over half a second adrift of Leclerc, while Lewis Hamilton could only manage P6.
FORMULA 1 MERCEDES-BENZ GROSSER PREIS VON DEUTSCHLAND 2019
Practice 3 results
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||1:12.380|
|2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+0.168s|
|3 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.264s|
|4 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.510s|
|5 Kevin Magnussen MAG Haas F1 Team||+0.513s|
One of the biggest upsets of the session came from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, who after reporting that his new Hockenheim-spec upgrade was working far better than it had done on Friday, wound up fifth for the team, just three-thousandths off Bottas’ time.
Carlos Sainz was seventh for McLaren, two-hundredths up on eighth-placed Pierre Gasly, driving a new Red Bull chassis after his big crash in FP2 yesterday. Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo and Romain Grosjean, driving the second Haas adorned with the aero specification they ran in Melbourne, rounded out the top 10, Grosjean nearly half a second down on his team mate after reporting engine issues.
Those just outaside of the top 10 needn’t have been too worried ahead of qualifying however, with the gap from Sainz in P7 to Renault's Daniel Ricciardo in P18 just 0.516s.
Williams were forced to replace Robert Kubica’s chassis on Friday night after discovering damage on the car, and they brought up the back of the field, the Pole finishing ahead of George Russell, but with both cars over three seconds off the pace.
So, it’s advantage Ferrari heading into qualifying. But they’ll be praying that the weather holds to allow them to convert that advantage into pole position – and spoil the Mercedes party.