FP3: Verstappen back on top in final practice in Austria, half a second ahead of Mercedes duo
Max Verstappen was back on top in the final practice session before qualifying in Austria, setting a fastest time that was over half a second quicker than Valtteri Bottas and his newly re-signed Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.
Blue skies and white clouds painted a dreamy picture over the Red Bull Ring, the thousands of orange-clad Verstappen fans adding another splash of colour to this crucial session – while Pirelli's prototype C4 tyres were in play at the beginning of this session as the suppliers continued to test their robust new compound. AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda set the fastest lap on those tyres.
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Soft compounds came into play after 30 minutes and it was Verstappen who set the blistering benchmark of 1m04.941s, improving to 1m04.591s late on. Bottas lined up next, half a second away from the Red Bull driver, with Lewis Hamilton finishing third (0.686s off Verstappen) having had a lap time deleted just before he set his ultimate benchmark.
Pierre Gasly took fourth for AlphaTauri, ahead of Alfa Romeo's surprise top five inclusion Antonio Giovinazzi. Those late laps bumped Carlos Sainz to P6 and his Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc down to P9.
FORMULA 1 BWT GROSSER PREIS VON ÖSTERREICH 2021
Practice 3 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:04.591|
|2 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.538s|
|3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||+0.686s|
|4 Pierre Gasly GAS AlphaTauri||+0.689s|
|5 Antonio Giovinazzi GIO Alfa Romeo Racing||+0.754s|
Between the Ferraris was former alumnus Fernando Alonso, the Alpine driver setting a late lap having switched from hards to softs to go eighth, and Sergio Perez following suit for seventh.
Behind Leclerc was Aston Martin's birthday boy Sebastian Vettel – 34 today – in P10 and Lance Stroll 11th, another 0.004s off.
READ MORE: 5 things we learned from Friday practice for the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring
Tsunoda finished 12th having spun at high speed at the final corner, only to pull off an incredible rescue. He was the last driver within a second of Verstappen.
Next up was Alpine's Esteban Ocon, while George Russell was 14th for Williams as he held off the McLaren pair, Lando Norris (P15) having pushed the limits throughout with an off at the final corner, and Daniel Ricciardo finishing 16th.
Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen was 17th ahead of Haas's Mick Schumacher, while Williams' Nicholas Latifi took 19th and Nikita Mazpin rounded out the standings with another off-track moment, this time at Turn 6.
Every driver's quickest time in this session was set on soft tyres.
So FP3 sets up an intriguing qualifying session but it seems that Verstappen has the upper hand. Can Hamilton challenge him for pole position when the session hits at 1500 local time? All the live coverage and reaction will be right here on F1.com.