FP3: Leclerc pips Hamilton ahead of qualifying in Austria
Charles Leclerc appeared to confirm that it was game on between Ferrari and Mercedes for qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix, as he finished ahead of the two Silver Arrows of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in final practice.
Leclerc – who won from pole position here in both GP3 and F2 during his junior career – became the only driver of the weekend to lap the Red Bull Ring in under 1m 04s, stopping the clocks at 1m 03.987s to head his second consecutive practice session in Austria.
He finished 0.143s ahead of Hamilton, while Valtteri Bottas – whose car had to be rebuilt overnight following his heavy crash in FP2 yesterday – was 0.234s behind the Monegasque.
Sebastian Vettel couldn’t get within two and a half tenths of his team mate as he would up fourth, ahead of another FP2 crasher, Max Verstappen in the leading Red Bull.
McLaren confirmed that there was some decent pace in the MCL34 this weekend, with Lando Norris finishing ahead of the second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly, and with the potential luxury of being able to use team mate Carlos Sainz – set to start from the back of the grid after taking on new power unit elements – to give him a tow, which McLaren experimented with early on in the session.
In Gasly’s defence, the Frenchman – who finish 1.165s off Leclerc’s leading time – appeared to struggle with a suspected software glitch that slightly limited his running to leave him P7, ahead of Sainz.
FORMULA 1 MYWORLD GROSSER PREIS VON ÖSTERREICH 2019
Practice 3 results
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||1:03.987|
|2 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.143s|
|3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.234s|
|4 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.263s|
|5 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+0.459s|
Antonio Giovinazzi impressed to go P9 for Alfa Romeo ahead of the two Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon, who troubled the top 10 for the first time this weekend.
Nico Hulkenberg was P12 for Renault – although he’s set to start five places back from whatever grid position he ends up in after taking on a new Spec B Renault internal combustion engine, while Haas confirmed at the end of the session that they would be changing the gearbox of last year’s fifth-placed finisher here Kevin Magnussen ahead of qualifying.
The Dane ended the session down in P18, ahead of the two Williams of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
So, it’s advantage Ferrari as we head into qualifying – but can the Scuderia, and Charles Leclerc, hold their nerve, and their performance advantage, to vanquish their silver rivals this time out? Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix is set to be a gripping contest.