Max Verstappen took top spot in final practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix on Saturday morning, but the battle between Red Bull Racing and the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team looks likely to be close in Qualifying later today.
Verstappen’s two best times were good enough for top spot in free practice three, and although he was complaining about understeer on his RB16B in the final sector, his best time of 1:18.489 was just over two-tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton.
It was a slow start to the session, with only the two Uralkali Haas F1 Team drivers setting lap times in the opening ten minutes, although both also had off track moments in that time as they struggled for grip. Mick Schumacher spun at turn fourteen while Nikita Mazepin ran wide on the exit of turn five. Mazepin would also have a spin at turn eight late in the session.
When the track began to get busy, the usual suspects found their way to the top. Behind Verstappen and Hamilton came the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, 0.331 seconds off the pace, while Sergio Pérez put the second Red Bull into fourth, just a further 0.020 seconds back.
All four drivers will be looking for pole position on Saturday afternoon, with Verstappen aiming for his second pole of the season and Hamilton his one hundredth in Formula 1.
Fernando Alonso did set a time to match Hamilton’s best, but the Alpine F1 Team driver had that lap time deleted after exceeding track limits at turn one. His best time of the session left him down in fourteenth, but there is certainly pace in the A521 this weekend, as proven by team-mate Esteban Ocon ending fifth fastest, just 0.371 seconds back of Verstappen!
The two Scuderia Ferrari drivers were also in close order on Saturday morning, with Charles Leclerc edging out team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. for sixth place by 0.047 seconds, while Lando Norris was eighth despite the McLaren F1 Team driver suffering a spin of his own late in the day at the same place Schumacher spun earlier.
Pierre Gasly was Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda’s sole representative inside the top ten in ninth, although team-mate Yuki Tsunoda was only a tenth of a second back from the Frenchman in eleventh. In between came Kimi Räikkönen, with the veteran Finn being another driver to spin during the session in his Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN.
Daniel Ricciardo will be disappointed in his own pace in the second McLaren to be only twelfth, although he was less than four-tenths of a second off team-mate Norris. Antonio Giovinazzi, likewise, will be looking to match his team-mate Räikkönen in Qualifying, with the Italian thirteenth fastest on Saturday morning, just ahead of Alonso.
Despite his early spin, Schumacher will be happy with his performance during the session, with the Haas driver ending an impressive fifteenth, ahead of both the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team drivers.
Lance Stroll, running this weekend with an updated AMR21, was unable to get a representative lap time on the board on the soft tyre and was only sixteenth fastest, while team-mate Sebastian Vettel, running without the update, was down in eighteenth.
After impressing on Friday, George Russell was down in seventeenth in the leading Williams Racing machine, while team-mate Nicholas Latifi and Haas’ Mazepin completed the field, both more than two second down on the best time of the session of Verstappen.
Qualifying is set to be exciting on Saturday afternoon, and can Verstappen deny Hamilton what would be his one hundredth pole position in Formula 1? Can Bottas or Pérez interject themselves in the battle for top spot? Only time will tell later today.
Free Practice Three Result
|1||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||1:18.489||21|
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:18.725||+0.236||21|
|3||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:18.820||+0.331||19|
|4||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||Red Bull Racing||1:18.840||+0.351||24|
|5||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Alpine F1 Team||1:18.860||+0.371||19|
|6||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1:19.001||+0.512||23|
|7||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||1:19.050||+0.561||24|
|8||4||Lando Norris||ITA||McLaren F1 Team||1:19.272||+0.783||18|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:19.374||+0.885||25|
|10||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:19.415||+0.926||25|
|11||22||Yuki Tsunoda||JAP||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:19.485||+0.996||25|
|12||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||1:19.582||+1.093||19|
|13||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:19.588||+1.099||23|
|14||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Alpine F1 Team||1:19.949||+1.460||20|
|15||47||Mick Schumacher||GER||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:20.033||+1.544||21|
|16||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:20.090||+1.601||17|
|17||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1:20.127||+1.638||18|
|18||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:20.214||+1.725||21|
|19||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:20.681||+2.192||19|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||RUS||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:20.690||+2.201||20|