RACE DEBRIEF

    Max Verstappen threw down the gauntlet ahead of qualifying as he set the fastest lap of FP3 in Bahrain, to top the session ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in P2 and Valtteri Bottas in P3.

    Soft tyres were the only compound used in FP3 and qualifying runs came thick and fast with 15 minutes remaining. Verstappen was top midway through the session on higher-fuel runs, but improved later on to set the benchmark of 1m28.355s – even as his rear wing flap oscillated comically down the straights when DRS was activated.

    READ MORE: Albon given new chassis for remainder of Bahrain GP weekend after big FP2 crash

    Hamilton eventually finished 0.263s off Verstappen, and just a tenth faster than his Mercedes team mate Bottas. The Briton appeared to have an issue with his W11 at the end of the session, and after the team worked on the car in the garage they sent him back out, though by the time he reached the pitlane exit, the red light was on to signal the end of the session, and he was wheeled back into his garage by his mechanics.

    In fourth was Red Bull's Alex Albon, who had a chassis change overnight after crashing heavily out of FP2 on Friday. The Thai driver finished over six-tenths behind his team mate.

    Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix 2020

    Bahrain 2020

    Practice 3 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing 1:28.355
    2 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes +0.263s
    3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes +0.366s
    4 Alexander Albon ALB Red Bull Racing +0.663s
    5 Carlos Sainz SAI McLaren +1.100s

    Fifth fastest was McLaren's Carlos Sainz, while his team mate Lando Norris was seventh. Between them was AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly, his team mate Daniil Kvyat eighth. Kvyat had a power unit change, his team breaking curfew overnight for the fix, though he is still within his limit for the season so won't get a grid penalty.

    Racing Point lined up in ninth and 10th with Lance Stroll ahead of Sergio Perez. Perez was third during the high-fuel runs and said on Friday that he would sacrifice one-lap pace for race gains.

    READ MORE: Friday Pace Analysis – Can Red Bull or Racing Point spoil Mercedes’ party in Bahrain?

    Renault rallied late on with Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon jumping to 11th and 12th, respectively.

    That left Ferrari out of the top 10, with Sebastian Vettel 13th and his team mate Charles Leclerc 15th.

    FP3 Highlights: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

    Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi was the driver to split the Ferraris, taking P14. His veteran team mate Kimi Raikkonen managed P19.

    Haas lined up 17th and 18th with Romain Grosjean just in front of Kevin Magnussen. Ahead of Grosjean was the Williams of George Russell in 16th.

    READ MORE: Ricciardo predicting two-stop excitement after finishing fifth fastest in Bahrain FP2

    Russell's team mate Nicholas Latifi had his power unit's fuel system replaced overnight as the Williams mechanics burned the midnight oil. The Canadian finished 20th, 2.562s off the pace.

    With Verstappen ahead of the Mercedes in the final practice session of Bahrain, qualifying looks set to be an intriguingly close affair. Can the Dutchman take his first pole position of the season? Follow the session live here on F1.com to find out...

    2020 Bahrain Grand Prix FP3: Verstappen’s DRS malfunction