AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly went quickest in the final practice session for the FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as pole position favourite Max Verstappen hit the barriers early in the session. The Red Bull driver’s team-mate Sergio Pérez finished second ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
In an messy session running was hampered by low grip and running was frequently disrupted by yellow flags as drivers made mistakes and were forced to use escape roads.
Pérez set the early pace, however, with a lap of 1m44.165 set on hard tyres. The Mexian was soon ousted from P1, however, as AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda claimed top spot with an early soft tyre time of 1:43.447s.
Medium tyre runners Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz then shuffled Pérez to fourth as they took second and third respectively, before Gasly took over at the top for the first time in the session with a lap of 1:43.051on softs.
However, soon after the half way mark the session was red-flagged when Verstappen crashed.
The Dutchman was setting personal best mini-sectors as he built up pace on the hard tyres but in Turn 15 he braked too late, locked up the fronmt left and slid into the barriers. The damage wasn’t severe but with the Red Bull driver unable to reverse away from the barriers and return to the pits, the red flags were displayed.
After a 10-minute halt, running resumed, with most cars emerging on soft tyres. Mercedes were the exception, with Hamilton and Bottas continuing to explore the performance of the medium tyre as the struggling team sought data for Q2 and the race.
Elsewhere , the proliferation of red-walled tyres meant that position changed hands rapidly. Leclerc grabed P1 for Ferrari with a lap of 1:42.778s but that was quickly beaten by Pérez who posted a lap of 1:42.595.
George Russell then interrupted the personal bests when he parked his Williams in the escape road at Turn 1, telling his team “no power, no gears”.
His stoppage prompted a brief Virtual Safety Car period after which
Gasly went top with a 1:42.251, while Hamilton jumped from 17th to third thanks to a lap of 1:42.697. That was aided, however, by what Valtteri Bottas’ engineers called a “monster two” valued at six tenths of a second.
Leclerc and Sainz were fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of McLaren’s Norris and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. Tsunoda finished eighth, with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren driver Ricciardo rounding out the top ten.
2021 FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:42.251 16 211.350a
2 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:42.595 0.344 19 210.641
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:42.697 0.446 16 210.432
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:42.778 0.527 16 210.266
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:43.006 0.755 17 209.801
6 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:43.011 0.760 15 209.791
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:43.080 0.829 15 209.650
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 1:43.244 0.993 19 209.317
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:43.294 1.043 15 209.216
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:43.557 1.306 17 208.685
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:43.585 1.334 13 208.628
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:43.682 1.431 13 208.433
13 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:43.745 1.494 16 208.306
14 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:43.826 1.575 17 208.144
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:43.984 1.733 6 207.828
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:44.054 1.803 17 207.688
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:44.113 1.862 11 207.570
18 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:44.434 2.183 12 206.932
19 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:45.282 3.031 17 205.265
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:45.711 3.460 12 204.432