Charles Leclerc went quickest in the final practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix, with the Monegasque driver beating team-mate Sebastian Vettel by just 0.027s at the end of a late chase for top spot following a wet start to the session.
Heavy overnight rain left the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez track surface too damp for slick tyres and the early part of the session saw the few teams that took to the track run cautiously on green-banded intermediate tyres.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen led the way in the first half hour, the Dutchman posting a time of 1:26.118 that left him four tenths clear of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
With a little over 13 minutes left in the session, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen bolted on a set of soft tyres and when the Finn immediately went more than four seconds quicker than Verstappen it sparked a furious final 10 minutes of action as teams attempted to learn as much as possible in the short time available.
Top spot was traded among Bottas, on medium compound Pirellis, Verstappen, the second Red Bull of Alex Albon and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, all on softs, before Bottas moved further ahead.
The Finn moved to soft tyres and with a little over two minutes left on the clock he took P1 with a lap of 1:16.259. Hamilton couldn’t match that with his run on softs, with the Briton putting in a slightly scruff lap to cross the line over a tenth behind his team-mate.
It was left to Leclerc and Vettel to lead the way and as the chequered flag was shown Leclerc took top spot with a time of 1:16.145, just under three hundredths of a second ahead of Vettel.
Their times shuffled Bottas and Hamilton to third and fourth places respectively, while Sainz took fifth place for McLaren.
Neither Red Bull driver found space for a clean run in the final minutes of the session, with Verstappen coming across a slow Alfa Romeo on his run and Albon being slowed by Williams’ Robert Kubica. Verstappen thus had to settle for sixth place, almost eight tenths of a second off Leclerc, while Albon finished eighth.
The Red Bulls were split by the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman sat out the bulk of the session with illness but he went out on track in the final minutes to post a time of 1:17.090 to edge Albon by 0.004s.
Lando Norris was ninth in the second McLaren, 1.001s off the pace and the final top 10 position was taken by Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez.
Down at Renault technical problems prevented Daniel Ricciardo from taking part, while team-mate Nico Hulkenberg completed a single installation lap. The team reported “a pollution of one of the cooling systems, which requires careful cleaning not to damage any component”.
2019 FIA Formula One Mexican Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 14 1:16.145
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 11 1:16.172 0.027
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 18 1:16.259 0.114
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 16 1:16.381 0.236
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren 14 1:16.638 0.493
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 12 1:16.903 0.758
7 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso 10 1:17.090 0.945
8 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 19 1:17.094 0.949
9 Lando Norris McLaren 11 1:17.146 1.001
10 Sergio Perez Racing Point 10 1:17.207 1.062
11 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 14 1:17.529 1.384
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 19 1:17.740 1.595
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point 8 1:17.866 1.721
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 8 1:17.881 1.736
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 12 1:18.132 1.987
16 Romain Grosjean Haas 14 1:18.527 2.382
17 George Russell Williams 13 1:20.965 4.820
18 Robert Kubica Williams 13 1:22.002 5.857
19 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1