In a slow FP3 session, laps were at a premium across the grid, with Verstappen completing just shy of 10 laps across the session. However, the teams will now all be gearing up for an exhilarating qualifying.
Slow start to the final practice session of the weekend, with ten minutes on the board it was only the two Haas drivers of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin with times on the board. Shortly after the two Alpine drivers ventured out, with Fernando Alonso topping the times, just ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon with 15 minutes gone in the session.
The session started to get busy with 20 minutes gone, as 17 of the 20 cars were out on track, making final preparations before the lights go green on qualifying in just over two hours' time.
Unexpectedly, as the clock ticked on towards the halfway point, the Williams of George Russell took the top of the times, just 0.056 ahead of Pierre Gasly. However, the top 13 were separated by 0.9 of a second showing just how close the cars were on the tight track.
Back On Track
Valtteri Bottas later passed the time of Russell, with the Finn putting the Mercedes on top of the timings. Following his incident in the pitlane during FP2 yesterday, spinning the car in the pitlane on the exit of his pit box, Bottas incurred the wrath of the stewards, gaining a three-place grid penalty for his troubles. It is imperative that the Mercedes man has a sterling weekend as pressure mounts surrounding his future in the sport.
Track limits would continue to burden drivers up and down the grid, with the main victim being Yuki Tsunoda, who was pushing his Alpha Tauri to the limit throughout the session. His tenacity would pay off as he would set a purple first sector time on his flying lap, securing the second-fastest time of the session, behind the rampant Max Verstappen.
Mazepin managed to bring out the first yellow flag of the day after the Haas spun on the exit of turn one, spinning the Russian across the track, onto the grass on the opposing side of the track.
The Business End
As the session continued onwards, Verstappen's time looked more and more unbeatable. Lewis Hamilton, upon being told of the gap to the Dutchman by his engineer, responded "Where is he getting that 0.3s from?". Hamilton would go on to improve his time, however, he would still be firmly behind the Dutchman. It was hypothesized that the time deficit was due to the Red Bull's superior straight-line speed, something that Mercedes would have to not only match but better.
As the session began to come to an end, with the clock ticking down to the 15-minute mark, many drivers looked to set some hot times, with a handful of them taking back to the track donning a new pair of soft tires. As a result, the times began to tumble, as Bottas went top of the times, only to be bettered by teammate Hamilton by nearly half a second. As these times came in, it was noticeable the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull, with there being a 0.6-second gap between Hamilton and Verstappen, indicating the potential that Mercedes was holding back a little bit early in the session.
As a result of the volume of cars on track, drivers struggled to find a gap for the perfect lap time, a victim of this cycle of Sergio Perez who had a lap compromised by Russell, a lap that could have seen him head towards the top three.