Photo: FIA

Verstappen Quickest in Final Practice at Paul Ricard


Formula 1 Championship leader Max Verstappen went quickest in final practice for the French Grand Prix beating Mercedes Valtteri Bottas by 0.747s while the Red Bull driver’s chief title rival Lewis Hamilton finished almost a second off the Dutchman’s pace and fifth place.

The opening 10 miniutes of the session were quite, with no cars on track, but eventually the Haas cars of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin broke the silence and the session got properly underway.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso set the pace in the opening stages of running, posting a lap of 1:33.206 on soft tyres to claim P1 just under seven hundredths of a second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.

Then, shortly before the halfway mark Mercedes sent its drivers out and Bottas jumped to the top of the order with a soft tyre lap of 1:32.346. Verstappen was close behind him on track, however, and within moments he had edged past the Finn with a new P1 time of 1:32.337, just nine thousandths of a second in front of the Finn.

Bottas then went again and after a purple first sector and a personal best in the final third of the track he returned to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:32.309.

Once again Verstappen was behind him on a flying lap and when the Dutchman crossed the line he was three tenths clear of the Finn, but he stayed second when the lap was deleted for a track limits infringement in Turn 6.

Behind the top two Hamilton was struggling to find a comfort zone with his Mercedes and as the quali sims approached he was 0.358s behind his team-mate.

Hamilton found an improvement on his qualifying run, p;osting a lap of 1:32.266 but his team-mate held onto P1 by two tenths of a second with a lap of 1:32.047.

The Red Bulls then went out for their qualifying sims and after Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz has slotted into P2, Sergio Pérez took P3 with a time of 1:32.238. Verstappen, though, was flying and after purple sectors in the middle at the end of the lap the Dutchman took P1 with a lap 0.747s clear of Bottas.

Sainz’s lap of 1m32.195s remained good enough for third place ahead of Pérez, whike Hamilton was forced to settle for fifth. Sixth place went to McLaren’s Lando Norris, with Alonso seventh for Alpine ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10.

2021 FIA Formula 1 French Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1:31.300 11 230.352
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:32.047 0.747 14 228.483
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:32.195 0.895 17 228.116
4 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda 1:32.238 0.938 15 228.010
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.266 0.966 15 227.940
6 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:32.336 1.036 14 227.768
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:32.624 1.324 15 227.059
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:32.681 1.381 16 226.920
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Honda 1:32.707 1.407 16 226.856
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:32.759 1.459 14 226.729
11 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:32.820 1.520 15 226.580
12 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:33.017 1.717 17 226.100
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:33.051 1.751 15 226.017
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:33.200 1.900 18 225.656
15 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:33.328 2.028 16 225.347
16 George Russell Williams/Mercedes 1:33.364 2.064 16 225.260
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Honda 1:33.424 2.124 17 225.115
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:33.584 2.284 16 224.730
19 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:34.143 2.843 14 223.396
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas/Ferrari 1:34.642 3.342 13 222.218

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