Max Verstappen outpaced Valtteri Bottas in the final free practice session of the weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing showing much improved pace compared to Friday’s running.
Verstappen’s best time of 54.064 saw him hit top spot, although Bottas will be happier after setting the second best time than he was through Friday’s running, although there was definitely pace in hand from the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver as he ran wide at the final turn and lost time in the process.
Verstappen even had time for a spin early on, with the Dutchman rotating the car at turn two whilst running on the hard compound tyres. However, he was able to get back on track without any hassle and was able to hit the top once he switched to the soft tyre.
Behind the leading duo, Pierre Gasly impressed once more as he placed his Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda into third place, just 0.363 seconds down on Verstappen’s best time, while Renault DP World F1 Team’s Esteban Ocon was equally impressive in fourth, just a further 0.026 seconds back. It has been a strong weekend to date for both Frenchmen, and they will be looking forward to Qualifying with aims at reaching at least Q3 around the outer track of the Bahrain International Circuit.
After losing a lot of track time on Friday evening due to an engine-related issue, Lando Norris came back fighting on Saturday and was an excellent fifth fastest for the McLaren F1 Team, while Alexander Albon in the second Red Bull could well be in contention for a career-best Qualifying place after setting the sixth best time but on the slower, medium compound tyre compared to the soft of the top five.
After topping the two free practice sessions on Friday, George Russell’s first weekend racing for the Mercedes team was brought back to reality somewhat as he was more than six-tenths of a second down on Verstappen.
Russell, racing in place of the absent Lewis Hamilton following the World Champion’s positive test for coronavirus, made a few mistakes across the session, but if he wants to continue his unbroken record of out-qualifying team-mates later, he will need to find time to be in a position to beat Bottas.
A mid-session rear wing change for both BWT Racing Point Formula One Team drivers appeared to do the trick as Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll closed out the session in eighth and ninth respectively, while Carlos Sainz Jr. was tenth fastest in the second McLaren. However, the Spaniard will be comforted by the fact that, although he was five places behind team-mate Norris, he was only a tenth of a second behind the Briton.
Antonio Giovinazzi was the leading Ferrari-powered driver in eleventh, with the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN ace just ahead of the second AlphaTauri of Daniil Kvyat, with the Russian likely to be disappointed with his performance having been inside the top six in both Friday sessions.
However, Kvyat will likely be happier than either of the Scuderia Ferrari drivers, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel ending thirteenth and fifteenth respectively, either side of the second Renault of Daniel Ricciardo. Leclerc suffered a spin as the chequered flag fell exiting the final turn, while Vettel’s session was halted early when Ferrari opted to do a precautionary engine change ahead of Qualifying.
Kimi Räikkönen was more than three tenths of a second down on his Alfa Romeo team-mate Giovinazzi in sixteenth, while the two Haas F1 Team and two Williams Racing drivers completed the field.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen led the final four in seventeenth ahead of Williams’ Nicholas Latifi, while their team-mates for this weekend – Pietro Fittipaldi and Jack Aitken – brought up the rear. Fittipaldi goes into Qualifying knowing he will be starting at the back following engine component changes and a grid penalty to boot – not great news for the debuting Brazilian.
Qualifying around the short Bahrain track will see twenty cars fight for their position on the grid. It could be a hectic one with traffic likely to play a key part in proceedings. Tyre management will also be important, with some drivers opting for one cool down lap before attacking for a second timed lap, while others were using two cool down laps before their next attack.
Verstappen may have had the edge in final practice, but will Bottas come back fighting on Sunday evening, and can Russell keep up his immaculate record in Formula 1 and beat the Finn on the grid. He is called ‘Mr Saturday’ for a reason…
|1||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||54.064||23|
|2||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||54.270||+0.206||20|
|3||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||54.427||+0.363||24|
|4||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Renault DP World F1 Team||54.453||+0.389||21|
|5||4||Lando Norris||GBR||McLaren F1 Team||54.606||+0.542||15|
|6||23||Alexander Albon||THA||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing||54.629||+0.565||22|
|7||63||George Russell||GBR||Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team||54.664||+0.600||20|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||54.678||+0.614||20|
|9||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||BWT Racing Point Formula One Team||54.693||+0.629||18|
|10||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||McLaren F1 Team||54.720||+0.656||16|
|11||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||54.845||+0.781||20|
|12||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||54.850||+0.786||23|
|13||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||54.854||+0.790||21|
|14||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Renault DP World F1 Team||54.857||+0.793||15|
|15||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Scuderia Ferrari||54.858||+0.794||17|
|16||7||Kimi Raikkonen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||55.171||+1.107||20|
|17||20||Kevin Magnussen||DEN||Haas F1 Team||55.347||+1.283||19|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||55.493||+1.429||21|
|19||51||Pietro Fittipaldi||BRZ||Haas F1 Team||55.666||+1.602||21|
|20||89||Jack Aitken||GBR||Williams Racing||55.670||+1.606||23|