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FP3: Verstappen lays down the gauntlet for qualifying with stunning lap to top final practice

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Max Verstappen laid down a marker ahead of qualifying for the French Grand Prix, heading the times by 0.747s from his closest rival, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, as Carlos Sainz finished an impressive third for Ferrari.

Having been there or thereabouts with both Mercedes of Bottas and Lewis Hamilton for the majority of the session, with 13 minutes of FP3 to go, Verstappen clocked a stunning 1m 31.300s effort, the Dutchman the only driver to lap Paul Ricard below 92 seconds so far this weekend, as Bottas could manage no better than a 1m 32.047s.

AS IT HAPPENED: Relive all the action from final practice for the French Grand Prix

With Ferrari having lamented a “back to reality” performance on Friday, the team will have been happy to see Sainz take P3, a tenth and a half off Bottas, with the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez fourth.

Hamilton, having swapped chassis with team mate Bottas for this weekend, and despite his best efforts, could only manage P5, nearly a second off Verstappen and only narrowly ahead of the McLaren of Lando Norris in P6.

France 2021

Practice 3 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1VER1:31.300
2BOT+0.747s
3SAI+0.895s
4PER+0.938s
5HAM+0.966s
View Full Results

The Alpines had lit up the timing screens yesterday, but slipped back slightly on Saturday morning, Fernando Alonso heading team mate Esteban Ocon in P7 and P8, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.

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While Sainz was starring in the top three, Charles Leclerc found himself back in the P11 position he held in FP1, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Aston Martin pairing of Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel in P13 and P14 – the Astons having spent much of the session running the hard tyres.

Kimi Raikkonen was 15th, ahead of George Russell – 16th in only his second session of the weekend, after handing his car over to Roy Nissany on Friday morning – with the second AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda in P17, the Japanese driver having been angry after having a lap deleted for track limit violations.

FP3 Highlights: 2021 French Grand Prix

Rounding out the field came the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi, then the leading Haas of Mick Schumacher in P19 and Nikita Mazepin, who spun early in the session before finishing 20th, 3.342s off the ultimate pace.

READ MORE: 5 things we learned from Friday practice for the French Grand Prix

So it’s Max Verstappen looking punchy heading into qualifying – but can the Dutchman maintain that advantage and take his first pole position since the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend? Tune into qualifying to find out, and follow all the action right here on F1.com.

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