Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen topped the times in the final practice session of the weekend ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, just nine hundredths of a second clear of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Lewis Hamilton, in what was an extremely busy final ten minutes of FP3, with traffic proving a big problem for many.
A lack of grip and a dirty track have caused problems for the drivers so far this weekend, and high tyre degradation is proving to be a real issue, especially on the super-soft tyres which only look to be lasting four or five laps before being useless. Cool temperatures on Friday added to those problems, so it was hoped today’s higher temperatures would allow for smoother running.
Verstappen set a time of 1:19.137 to take the top spot on a set of super-soft tyres having found a clear bit of track, just edging out Hamilton in second who was one of many drivers to find themselves hampered by traffic throughout their qualifying simulation.
The Brit needs to have a good qualifying session this afternoon if he is to ensure he wins Sunday’s race, and Mercedes have changed the current world champions engine since yesterday, at Hamilton’s request. He is now believed to be using an engine he first used in Japan, which has been done as a precaution, because this engine has less mileage on it.
Daniel Ricciardo was third and just two tenths further down the order, with both Red Bull drivers beating the Scuderia Ferrari’s and Nico Rosberg who was fourth.
The German was unable to get a clear run during the final moments of the session, and ran wide at Turn 12, a popular practice during the last ten minutes of FP3, only able to complete a lap that was good enough for fourth and four tenths down on his team-mate.
Williams Martini Racing driver Valtteri Bottas was fifth, a strong result for the Grove based squad having also managed to out pace the Ferrari’s. The first of the Italian team’s drivers was Sebastian Vettel down in sixth, ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in seventh. Having looked racy on Friday, the FP3 session was a somewhat disappointing one for the Maranello based squad.
Felipe Massa was eighth to keep both Williams cars marginally ahead of main rivals the Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team, which will have pleased the British squad. Nico Hulkenberg was ninth, just ahead of the first Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jnr, who completed the top ten.
Local boy Sergio Perez was eleventh, ahead of Daniil Kvyat who was twelfth despite struggling with the STR11 during the early part of the FP3 session. The Russian had complained of the car feeling “very on the nose” (too much front grip) and later also reported difficult balance at the rear, which the team just put down to track conditions.
Kvyat was ahead of the first of the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team drivers Fernando Alonso, with the Woking based squad not looking anywhere near as strong as they did in Austin last time out. However, just three tenths of a second split the runners from ninth to thirteenth, so we could see a close battle for the final places in Q3 later today.
Jolyon Palmer put in a strong final lap to finish fourteenth for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, four tenths quicker than his team-mate, and also just ahead of fellow countryman Jenson Button in fifteenth.
The Brit was experiencing some issues with the MP4-31 during the session, reporting warning lights on the dashboard, which appeared to be linked to temperature.
Sauber F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson was sixteenth, just one tenth up on Haas F1 Team driver Esteban Gutierrez, who was experiencing his first home grand prix this weekend. The Mexican was just ahead of Kevin Magnussen and team-mate Romain Grosjean.
Both Haas drivers experienced problems getting the front tyres to work throughout the session, and with no answer to the issue from the team, they were stuck with what to do about it.
Manor Racing MRT driver Pascal Wehrlein was twentieth and one tenth quicker than team-mate Esteban Ocon, but it was Sauber driver Felipe Nasr that brought up the rear on this occasion.
Heading into qualifying it is not immediately clear who has the all out pace due to the traffic the majority of the drivers had to contend with at the end of the session, but both Red Bull and Ferrari have shown glimpses of something special at some pint this weekend, and we could be in for a close battle during qualifying later today.
2016 Mexican Grand Prix – FP3 Results
|1||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||1:19.137|
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||1:19.370|
|9||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||1:20.255|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:20.325|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||1:20.472|
|12||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:20.586|