FP3: Leclerc heads Ferrari 1-2, lucky escape for Verstappen
Ferrari look favourites for pole position in Russia after Charles Leclerc led team mate Sebastian Vettel in final practice on Saturday. However, Mercedes may yet have something to say about it, with Lewis Hamilton all but matching Vettel’s time in third, both of them just over 0.3s off Leclerc’s benchmark time.
Unlike their rivals, Red Bull spent much of the hour running the medium Pirelli tyres rather than the softs. When Max Verstappen did swap to the quicker rubber, the Dutchman managed to launch his RB15 over the Turn 2 kerbs and then spin it backwards – mercifully lightly – into the Turn 13 wall. He nevertheless finished fifth behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, albeit 1.5s off the pace.
Romain Grosjean split the Red Bulls as he took sixth for Haas ahead of Alex Albon, who like team mate Verstappen will drop five grid spots thanks to power unit changes. Fresh from the announcement of their move back to Mercedes power from 2021, McLaren saw Lando Norris taken ninth behind Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. Kevin Magnussen completed the top 10 in the second Haas.
FORMULA 1 VTB RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX 2019
Practice 3 results
|1 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||1:32.733|
|2 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.316s|
|3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.396s|
|4 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.621s|
|5 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||+1.494s|
There were sadly more technical woes for local hero Daniil Kvyat. After his fuel systems issue on Friday, his Toro Rosso again ground to a halt 21 minutes into the hour with a power unit problem. The Russian – who was already confined to starting from the back of the grid thanks to power unit updates – is not expected to run in qualifying and will receive a brand-new Spec 4 Honda engine for Sunday.
Sergio Perez also had car problems at Racing Point and spent most of the hour in the garage. When the Mexican did emerge again late on, he immediately locked up and ran off at Turn 13, ruining a set of soft tyres in the process. He ended up 15th.
The forecast rain never materialised – however, it could yet make an appearance in qualifying, which could make what already looks set to be a spicy contest even spicier!