Max Verstappen made it a hattrick of free practice first-place finishes in Bahrain by 0.7 of a second from Sir Lewis Hamilton and over a second in front of the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. It's a strong indication that Red Bull could be more than ready to challenge Mercedes in the opening race of the season.
Much Slower Start
The first car out on track for FP3 was the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda, however, he came back into the pits a lap later without setting a time in what was a much slower start than we saw in FP2 yesterday afternoon.
The first timed lap of the session was set by Valtteri Bottas, a time of 1:33.3, in a car that he didn't look 100% comfortable, however, due to track limits the time was deleted. The car looked full of oversteer and seemed to have an issue with breaking. An issue that, prior to setting the timed lap, the Finn would find out for himself as he ended up in the run-off area at turn two.
Bottas wasn't the only car finding issues early in the session, as the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc spun at the exit of turn two, in a similar incident that saw Kimi Raikkonen lose his front wing in FP2 yesterday.
Struggles Up And Down The Grid
As the lap times started to file in with around half an hour gone, it was Hamilton that was topping the timing sheets, with Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz just under a second behind. Verstappen would pip Hamilton to the top with a time of 1:32.617, 0.316 seconds quicker than the Brit.
The majority of the field would be out on track as the session hit the halfway point, with 17 of the 20 cars making an appearance.
The issues would continue for Haas this weekend, as Nikita Mazapin bought out the third yellow flag of the session, after losing control in the mid part of the lap. One man who wasn't too pleased with this was Verstappen, who had just gone purple in sector one.
All Out For The Final 15
With 15 minutes remaining in the session, the two Mercedes began to show their teeth a bit more. First, it was Bottas who put the car on top of the timings, passing the Ferrari of Sainz, however, Hamilton would cross the line a mere ten seconds later and better his teammate by 0.5 seconds.
Turn 10 was still proving a sticking point for many drivers. The steep, banked 90-degree corner would catch out both the Haas drivers, Lando Norris and Hamilton, something that we will no doubt see going forward into Qualifying and the Race tomorrow.
Verstappen would have no such issues, however, as he would go 0.739 seconds quicker than the Mercedes, showing that Red Bull may be a strong contender going into the first race of the season.
Timings, on the whole, would get quicker towards the end of the session, with Lance Stoll and Esteban Ocon dragging the Aston Martin and Alpine up into the top ten. Another team who would put in a good time is Alfa Romeo, with Raikkonen putting in a time that saw him go seventh in the timings. After a strong pre-season, it's a promising indication for the Italian outfit.