FP3: Verstappen beats Bottas to top final Sakhir practice as Vettel's session ends early

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - DECEMBER 05: Sparks fly behind Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the

Max Verstappen denied Mercedes a clean sweep of the Sakhir Grand Prix practice sessions by setting a benchmark of 54.064s in FP3, to finish ahead of P2 Valtteri Bottas and P3 Pierre Gasly under the lights in Bahrain.

Red Bull’s Verstappen spun on hard tyres early in the session at Turn 2 but shrugged that off to deny Bottas top spot in the final session before qualifying. The two were split by 0.206s on this short track, while Verstappen’s team mate Alex Albon was half a second off him in P6.

IDEAL LAP: Why Bottas will be happier than his lap times might suggest

Our Ideal Lap analysis implied that Valtteri Bottas had far more time to gain after a disappointing pair of Friday practice sessions, and here he delivered with a lap of 54.270s with just over 15 minutes left, to finish second fastest on soft tyres. FP1 and FP2 leader George Russell could only manage seventh, locking up heavily on a late soft-tyred run.

In third was AlphaTauri’s Gasly, 0.363s off top spot, with his team mate Daniil Kvyat around six tenths away in P14 in another solid showing for the Honda-powered squad.

Sakhir 2020

Practice 3 results

PositionTeam NameTime
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FP3 Highlights: 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

Renault’s Esteban Ocon starred with a P4 finish in FP3, just 0.026s behind compatriot Gasly. His team mate Daniel Ricciardo had a scary moment on a late run at sector 2, creating a shower of sparks as he went over the kerbs to finish P14 overall.

McLaren had Lando Norris rounding out the top five, and Carlos Sainz rounding out the top 10 – but the two were split by just over a tenth, which underlines how close the midfield battle is on this tight Outer Loop track configuration.

READ MORE: Friday Pace Analysis – Why the data suggests it’s all to play for in the Sakhir GP

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez took P8, just 0.015s ahead of P9 team mate Lance Stroll in a hushed show of pace for the team in pink.

Ferrari occupied 13th and 15th, with Charles Leclerc ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The two were split by 0.004s (and 14th place Ricciardo) as they appear to be neck-and-neck ahead of qualifying. Vettel’s session ended early as he encountered a power unit failure with around 15 minutes left. His engineers are now left with the task of changing his engine, as a precaution, before qualifying. Leclerc spun on his final lap of the session, ruining hopes of an improvement from P13.

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix FP3: Verstappen spins at troublesome Turn 2

Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi managed a P11 finish in this session but Kimi Raikkonen could only finish 16th, while Williams had Nicholas Latifi 18th and Jack Aitken - subbing in for George Russell this weekend - last in the session, the whole field split by just 1.606s.

READ MORE: Drivers predicting traffic ‘carnage’ in qualifying on short Sakhir GP Outer Loop circuit

As for Haas, Pietro Fittipaldi was the first driver to turn laps in the session and ended up 19th. The Haas debutant, standing in for the injured Romain Grosjean this weekend, will be hit with a grid penalty as he’s taken new control electronics and energy store this weekend – exceeding his car's allocation. Haas regular Kevin Magnussen finished 17th.

The qualifying battle looks wide open, then, as we await what should be a thrilling session under the lights at Bahrain International Circuit at 2000 local time.


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