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Verstappen throws down the gauntlet in FP3

NEWS STORY
03/07/2021

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 22 degrees C, while the track temperature is 45 degrees. There is 0% chance of rain according to race control, which probably means it's going to pee down at some point.

The big news today is that Lewis Hamilton has agreed a new two-year deal with Mercedes for 2022 and 2023, though it has yet to be announced who his teammate will be.

The news comes after Hamilton topped the FP2 timesheets yesterday, the Briton finishing ahead of Bottas and Verstappen, despite that supposed illegal update to the Honda engine.

The Aston Martins, AlphaTauris, Alonso, Norris and the Alfa Romeos also looked good, but today should give us a better idea of the running order since yesterday the teams were obliged to carry out tyre testing for Pirelli.

The lights go green and the McLaren pair are among the early risers.

The prototype tyres are in use again this morning, though when you consider that they will be used at Silverstone in two weeks, Pirelli needs to test them as much as possible.

Norris posts a 6.454 and Ricciardo a 6.862, but Gasly responds with a 6.282.

Tsunoda goes second with a 6.437 as Leclerc goes fourth and Sainz seventh.

"There is a seven metres margin in braking for Turn 4," Ricciardo is advised by his engineer.

Mazepin and Raikkonen are among the first to have their times deleted, both having erred at Turn 9.

A 6.270 sees Norris split the AlphaTauris, Gasly having raised the bar with a 6.058.

Eleven minutes in and the Alpine pair head out, still no sign of the Bulls, Aston Martins or Mercedes drivers.

Tsunoda crosses the line at 6.045, eclipsing his teammate by 0.013s.

Leclerc is one of several drivers concerned at his delta time, the FIA having warned drivers that they must not slow down in Turns 9 or 10 in order to create space for themselves. This follows a number of near misses yesterday.

The Monegasque subsequently posts a 6.165 to go third.

Seventeen minutes in and Hamliton is the first of the big guns - no disrespect to McLaren or Ferrari - to head out.

Alonso complains of oversteer in Turn 5 as Hamilton goes fifth (6.414) on the prototypes.

Indeed, almost all running so far has been on the prototype rubber.

At which point Alonso switches to hards.

Bottas heads out, followed, shortly after, by Stroll, Vettel and Perez... but not Verstappen.

Gasly reports that he's still struggling with rear grip.

Norris and Russell are among the first to switch to softs.

Norris goes fourth (6.270) and Russell fifth (6.297).

Next time around the Briton improves to 5.762 as Stroll goes seventh (6.400).

As Vettel goes thirteenth and Bottas fourteenth, Perez pits having posted an exploratory 6.828.

On mediums, Raikkonen goes second with a 5.830.

Norris consolidates his top spot with a 5.700 as Tsunoda goes second (5.745).

If it was anyone else, but despite not having made an appearance yet, Verstappen waits patiently in his car.

At which point - with 30 minutes remaining - the Dutchman heads out, on softs.

Having improves to 5.748, Gasly has his time deleted.

As Verstappen begins his first flying lap, Leclerc goes quickest (5.627). Moments later, on his first flying lap, Verstappen crosses the line at 4.941.

A big, big spin for Tsunoda in Turn 9, the Japanese driver doing brilliantly to hold it all together having carried far too much speed into the corner.

Perez is back on track on hards, while Raikkonen remains sixth quickest having posted his best time on the mediums.

A big moment for Leclerc is Turn 4 as Sainz also admits that he's struggling for grip.

On softs, Hamilton posts a PB in S1. He maintains the pace in S2 but is in no danger of threatening Verstappen. He crosses the line at 5.432 to go second, albeit 0.491s down on his title rival.

Bottas goes third with a 5.585 only to be demoted when Leclerc stops the clock with a 5.484.

Hamilton is told that he's losing out to Verstappen on the start-finish straight and the run between Turns 1 and 3. Bottas losing out in Turns 6, 7 and 9.

A 5.694 sees Russell go fifth, one place behind a certain Mr Bottas.

Hamilton improves but remains 0.336s off Verstappen's best. Elsewhere, Mazepin is off and driving through the gravel in Turn 7. On the pit-wall Guenther Steiner looks less than impressed.

Sainz goes third with a 5.347 as Schumacher posts a 6.078 to go twelfth, the track conditions seemingly improving.

Ricciardo improves to eighth but is demoted when Vettel goes fifth with a 5.542.

Norris aborts his lap after running wide in Turn 1.

With 11:30 remaining, as Latifi goes 15th, the Alpines are 18th and 19th, Alonso yet to try the softs or mediums.

PBs in all three sectors sees Perez go 5th on the softs, 0.548s down on his teammate, who has just left his garage.

Quickest in the final sector, Hamilton consolidates his second spot with a 4.994, 0.188s off Verstappen's best. However, his time is subsequently deleted.

To add to the world champion's frustration, Verstappen improves to 4.591, thereby putting 0.686s between himself and his title rival.

Bottas leapfrogs his Mercedes teammate with a 5.129.

Giovinazzi goes fifth with a 5.345, ahead of Sainz, Leclerc and Perez.

Alonso goes seventh with a 5.434.

Hamilton is advised that he's mainly losing out to Verstappen in Turn 3.

Job done, Verstappen pits with just under two minutes remaining.

A late improvement from Perez who goes seventh with a 5.396, but he remains 0.805s off his teammate's pace.

The session ends. Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Bottas, Hamilton, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Sainz, Perez, Alonso, Leclerc and Vettel.

Stroll is eleventh, ahead of Tsunoda, Ocon, Russell, Norris, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Schumacher, Latifi and Mazepin.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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