Despite appearing to struggle for outright pace on Friday, reigning world champion Max Verstappen bounced back in the final practice for the French Grand Prix to set the benchmark time, beating the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó reports on the last 60-minute practice session in France before the action gets serious later on in qualifying.
As Circuit Paul Ricard presented itself in the glorious sunshine and sweltering temperatures in the third practice, the majority of the drivers was in no rush to head out on to the long and diverse French race track. However, the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez did not belong to this camp as the Milton Keynes based outfit set out a different programme for the final 60-minute practice.
The Dutchman and the Mexican were among the first drivers to roll out of their garages on PirellI’s yellow-banded medium compound to register a pair of hot laps before heading back to the pits, enabling the mechanics to prepare the RB18s for a heavy fuel run which is unusual to do in the third practice. The reigning champion dipped below the 1m33s mark on the medium rubber before completing an eye-catching long run on the same compound.
Verstappen then used the soft compound to simulate the qualifying conditions that will be similar to those experienced in the final practice. The Dutchman made a blistering effort to post the fastest lap of the weekend with a 1m 32.272s, pulling 0.3s clear of the Ferrari pair in final practice.
Carlos Sainz ended the session ahead of his team mate Charles Leclerc, who was over six tenths of a second adrift of Verstappen, appearing to struggle for outright pace in the hot conditions.
After handing over his W13 to reigning FIA Formula E World Champion Nyck de Vries, Lewis Hamilton managed to put his Mercedes in P4, edging the struggling Sergio Perez and his team mate George Russell.
Although Alpine seemed to struggle for one-lap pace on Friday, Fernando Alonso took 7th with a late push lap on the C4 compound while his team mate Esteban Ocon only managed a 17th place on home turf.
Williams shocked its rivals with its qualifying simulation with Alexander Albon setting the 8th fastest lap while his team mate Nicholas Latifi finished in a promising P12, enjoying the heavily upgraded Williams FW44 for the first time.
The midfield battle was once again extremely tight with only a few tenths of a second separating the likes of McLaren, Williams, AlphaTauri, Haas and Alfa Romeo cars, indicating that the final modifications to the setup might prove crucial when it comes to the fight for the starting positions in the qualifying session.
Mick Schumacher continued to struggle at the challenging Paul Ricard track, registering only the 19th fastest lap. The German was bookended by Aston Martins – Lance Stroll 18th and Sebastian Vettel 20th, with the four-time champion having missed the latter half of FP3 with floor damage.
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:32.272||22|
|5||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:33.293||+1.021s||24|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:33.505||+1.233s||17|
|8||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:33.558||+1.286s||18|
|9||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:33.669||+1.397s||15|
|10||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:33.751||+1.479s||18|
|11||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:33.788||+1.516s||16|
|12||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:33.841||+1.569s||15|
|13||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:33.869||+1.597s||17|
|14||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:33.872||+1.600s||19|
|15||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:33.911||+1.639s||18|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:34.031||+1.759s||22|
|17||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:34.122||+1.850s||17|
|18||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:34.177||+1.905s||19|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:34.222||+1.950s||11|
|20||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:34.536||+2.264s||11|