2021 French GP FP3 - Verstappen tops final session of the day, ahead of Bottas and Sainz

Max Verstappen took the top spot yet again in the south of France, 0.7 of a second quicker than Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, who managed to find some speed in the cockpit of the Ferrari.

Early Stages

One of the main headlines coming into the final practice session of the weekend was the rumble strips on the exit of turn two. Both Mercedes and Red Bull had been in contact with Michael Masi, F1's race director, in regards to getting them removed due to damage caused to both Verstappen's and Bottas's cars. However, they are here to stay. The FIA was also due to monitor turn six for track limits violations, as per Friday's practice sessions.

FP3 got off to a much slower start than the Friday sessions, with no drivers venturing onto the track within the first five minutes of the track going green. The first car to venture out of the pitlane was Nikita Mazepin, putting the Haas through its paces with ten minutes of the session gone. Who would be quickly joined by his Haas compadre of Mick Schumacher, as the pair had the whole track to themselves.

It wasn't long before more drivers poured onto the track, with Sergio Perez topping the times in the comparatively cooler conditions, however, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso would top the Mexicans time only a matter of moments later.

Much like in FP2, it was Mazepin who would be the first driver in trouble, with the Russian spinning at the now infamous turn two, as a result, the rookie had to crawl back to the pits with tires that were not fit for purpose.

Verstappen vs Mercedes

As the session ticked on to the halfway mark, the two Mercedes ventured out to record their first laps.  Lewis Hamilton's problems seemed to continue on from Friday, with him being 0.821 behind his comparatively charging teammate of Valtteri Bottas. Despite this, Max Verstappen would go on to surpass both times, putting him top of the times yet again in France. The championship leader would go top despite locking up in the even twisting final sector, showing the raw pace of the Red Bull this weekend.

Turn six seemed to be causing many drivers problems, with Verstappen, Yuki Tsunoda, and Lando Norris all having their lap times deleted due to them exceeding track limits. This was something that Tsunoda was extremely vocal about in radio messages to his team.

Change of tact

The only team not using the red-walled soft tire in FP3 was Aston Martin, with both Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel using the medium compound tire for the final practice session of the weekend. This could indicate that the team is looking to use the medium tire for Q2 later this afternoon, in the hope to go further in the race. Stroll has demonstrated previously that he has the capability to do a long stint, which could play into the hands of his team this weekend.

With just over 15 minutes left in the session, the two Mercedes had jumped Verstappen to take the top two positions in FP3. One man who was running better than last time out in Baku was the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, who, with the help of some setup changes, was running in fourth place for the majority of the session. The Aussie will be hoping that the French GP will be a turn in form, after two tough races in Monaco and Baku.

Verstappen would go on to show why he could be considered favorite for the title this year, as he pushed the Red Bull to the limit, to set a full purple lap, going 0.7 of a second clear of the in-form Bottas. Hamilton tried to challenge the Dutchman from down in 5th place, however, the Brit would come nowhere near, remaining behind Perez and Sainz.

The final five minutes of the session were very uneventful, with little to no movement up or down the grid. The top ten emerged back onto the track for the final two minutes of the session in order to get some race start practice in, with the drivers looking to save the car for Q1 in a couple of hours' time.