Verstappen tops FP3 timesheets

27/03/2021
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 39 degrees C, while the tack temperature is 48 degrees. Currently it is quite calm, wind-wise, but it is expected to pick up later in the day and tomorrow.

While one is tempted to say 'today's the day', fact is that like yesterday's opening session this morning is so unrepresentative to be almost irrelevant in terms of the conditions expected for qualifying and the race.

Nonetheless, it will allow a little fine tuning and experimentation ahead of this afternoon's much-anticipated showdown.

The lights go green and Tsunoda is first out. However, there is no mad rush to join the Japanese driver, his rivals opting to remain in their respective garages.

The AlphaTauri driver completes a sole install lap before heading back to the pits to rejoin his rivals.

Ten minutes into the session and Bottas is the second driver to dip a toe in the water, so to speak. Yesterday the Finn described the W12 as "undriveable".

The Finn is told of a headwind into Turn 4. He begins a flying lap, but he overdoes it going into Turn 1, runs wide and aborts the lap. Replay suggests he was unable to slow the car sufficiently.

While Bottas and Tsunoda were/are on softs, Alonso heads out on mediums.

As Sainz heads out, Bottas posts an exploratory 2:17.890. He subsequently posts a far more sensible 33.372.

Leclerc, Hamilton, Latifi, Mazepin and Schumacher head out, a mixture od hard and soft compounds.

Poor old Bottas... he has his time deleted for exceeding the track limits in Turn 4.

Like Bottas, Leclerc has an issue in Turn 1, suggesting that it could be the wind.

Alonso posts a 2:28.770 as countryman goes quickest with a 33.931, on hards.

Alonso improves to 35.276 to go second but is demoted when Hamilton posts a 32.933 on softs.

A spin for Leclerc in Turn 3 sees the yellows briefly waved. "The grip in incredibly low," he reports, "I'm really struggling with the car."

As the Haas pair both struggle, Norris goes deep, deep, deep in Turn 10.

As Russell goes third (34.768) on softs, Verstappen heads out.

Leclerc goes third (34.570), but is demoted when Perez goes second with a 33.764 on hards.

A PB in S1 is followed by a purple in S2 as Verstappen finally crosses the line at 32.617 to go top. On hards!

Giovinazzi goes third (33.556) on the softs, as teammate Raikkonen, Gasly and Tsunoda remain the only drivers yet to post a time.

"Front locking into 1 is a problem," says Alonso. Well it would be, wouldn't it?

Bottas continues to have his times deleted as he struggles to remain on the black stuff, particularly in Turn 4.

Russell goes ninth with a 34.768 on softs. Other than Verstappen, Perez (sixth) and Sainz (seventh) are the highest runners on hards, while Ocon (eleventh) is on mediums.

Quickest in the final sector, Perez improves to fifth (33.078).

Finding Turn 10 "tricky", while acknowledging it could be the wind, Norris asks if there is anything else he can do.

Mazepin runs wide and spins at Turn 7, bringing out the yellows and wrecking Verstappen's next lap.

Just after half-time, with everyone now having posted a time, it's: Verstappen, Gasly, Hamilton, Norris, Perez, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Sainz, Ricciardo and Leclerc.

"We need to wake up (!) the front tyres," Gasly is told.

Stroll is eleventh on the hards (34.654), while teammate Vettel is nineteenth (35.716).

On the softs, Gasly improves to 32.321 to take the top spot. Teammate Tsunoda is sixth (33.482).

"Box, box," cries Vettel as something falls off the front right of his Aston Martin.

Hamilton heads out on softs as Russell complains about the handling of his Williams.

Bottas is warned that the wind is picking up in Turn 1. Elsewhere, Sainz goes quickest in S1.

As Sainz continues to set a strong pace, Bottas now goes quickest in S1, only for Hamilton to go even quicker.

Sainz posts a 32.108, while Bottas responds with a 31.855 and Hamilton a 31.316. However, the Spaniard is on mediums as opposed to the soft-shod Mercedes.

"We are losing a lot on the straights," Tsunoda is told, "we are looking into it." The Japanese driver responds with a litany of his own mistakes.

Ricciardo goes fifth (32.477) on softs, ahead of Leclerc (medium) and Verstappen (hards).

All eyes on Perez who heads out on fresh softs.

Ricciardo is told there might be something to be found in braking for Turn 1.

As Perez begins his flying lap, Verstappen heads out on fresh softs.

The Mexican goes third, the Red Bull driver only quickest in the final sector.

Schumacher goes 11th with a 33.422, as Hamilton locks-up in Turn 10.

Tsunoda and Verstappen both crawling around the track in preparation for their flyers.

Tsunoda aborts his lap while Verstappen goes quickest in S1. Gasly also on a hot lap as he goes quickest in S2. However, Verstappen goes even quicker.

At the line Gasly goes second with a 31.583, only to be demoted when Verstappen stops the clock at 30.577, 0.739s quicker than second-placed Hamilton.

Having aborted his previous lap, Tsunoda now posts a PB in S1. He maintains the pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 32.709 to go tenth, 1.2s off his teammate's pace.

Stroll improves to 8th with a 32.431, while teammate Vettel can only manage 13th (32.755).

As Ocon goes eighth (32.423), Alonso posts 32.820 to go 15th.

Norris, currently 16th, heads out on fresh softs. However, at the end of the lap he pits before heading out again.

Schumacher asks if he is braking too late in a number of corners.

The session ends. Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Gasly, Bottas, Perez, Sainz, Raikkonen, Ocon, Stroll and Ricciardo.

Leclerc is eleventh, ahead of Giovinazzi, Tsunoda, Vettel, Alonso, Norris, Russell, Schumacher, Mazepin and Latifi.

While we stress that this session is largely unrepresentative of the conditions under which qualifying and the race will take place, it is clear that - unless Mercedes really does have something up its sleeve - Max Verstappen and Red Bull have the advantage.

To make matters worse for the German team, Red Bull's sister team, AlphaTauri, looks as though it could be a threat, while Alfa Romeo continues to impress.

Mixed fortunes for McLaren and Ferrari, while Aston Martin and Alpine continue to confuse.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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Published: 27/03/2021
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