Sebastian Vettel set the pace in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, finishing more than three tenths of a second clear of Lewis Hamilton. The final part of the session was disrupted by a crash involving Williams drive Sergey Sirotkin that brought out the red flags.
After a quiet start to the session Friday’s fastest man, Daniel Ricciardo, posted the first time but he was quickly beaten by the Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen.
With Mercedes still appearing to be marginally more uncomfortable than its rivals on the Baku City Circuit, and with Ricciardo content to move to longer runs on used ultrasoft tyres, Ferrari held the 1-2 slots through the half way stage in the session. Sergio Perez continued Force India’s good preparations by slotting into third place ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Hamilton.
The field then began to gradually return to the pit lane to prepare for qualifying simulations and it was Ferrari and Mercedes who made the first moves.
Vettel’s first lap was no improvement on his earlier time but he continued to hold P1 as Bottas split the Ferraris.
Räikkönen then delivered a time of 1:43.493 to sit 0.4s behind his team-mate but Hamilton set a new benchmark in the first sector as part of a lap that lifted him to second place 0.361s behind Vettel who had improved marginally to 1:43.091.
Nine minutes before the end of the session, just as many drivers were preparing to take to the track for their qualifying simulations, Sirotkin crashed hard into the barriers at Turn 3.
The Williams driver who had been enjoying a good session in P9 for Williams carried too much speed into the corner and slid wide into the barriers on the outside of the corner.
The crash saw the red flags waved and when the session resumed there was a flurry of activity as drivers attempted to put in quick laps.
Verstappen was one of the successful ones and he climbed the order with a lap of 1:43.519 that left him fourth ahead of Bottas, Pérez and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
Ricciardo fared less well, however, and after a personal best in the first sector the Australian was significantly slower in the middle of the lap and abandoned his run. The Red Bull driver had earlier confidently claimed “I know what I’ve got” to his race engineer so is unlikely to rue the missed chance. He ended the session in P12.
Lance Stroll was eighth in the second Williams, with Esteban Ocon ninth ahjead of the unfortunate Sirotkin making it two Force Indias and two Williams cars respectively in the top 10.
2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 17 1:43.091
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 16 1:43.452 0.361
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 17 1:43.493 0.402
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 17 1:43.519 0.428
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 20 1:43.569 0.478
6 Sergio Perez Force India 9 1:43.936 0.845
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 11 1:43.958 0.867
8 Lance Stroll Williams 8 1:44.123 1.032
9 Esteban Ocon Force India 11 1:44.220 1.129
10 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 9 1:44.534 1.443
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 12 1:44.763 1.672
12 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 17 1:44.861 1.770
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 16 1:44.905 1.814
14 Charles Leclerc Sauber 15 1:45.218 2.127
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 12 1:45.261 2.170
16 Carlos Sainz Renault 15 1:45.432 2.341
17 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 11 1:45.456 2.365
18 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 13 1:45.505 2.414
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 17 1:45.910 2.819
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 11 1:46.186 3.095