Max Verstappen will go into Saturday afternoon’s Qualifying session for the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring as clear favourite for pole position after the Dutchman was more than half a second ahead of the field in final practice.
The Red Bull Racing driver stayed in the garage for the early part of the session as other drivers ran laps on Pirelli’s prototype tyre, but when he joined the track, he was immediately quick. His best lap of 1:04.591 was 0.538 seconds clear of second placed Valtteri Bottas.
After ending Friday afternoon’s session first and second, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team were forced to settle for second and third, with Bottas over a tenth of a second ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton did set a time of 1:04.994 to move into second, but it was immediately deleted as he exceeded track limits at the exit of the final turn. However, it would have still seen the reigning World Champion end over four-tenths of a second away from Verstappen’s best.
Behind the leading three came the ever-impressive Pierre Gasly, with the Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda driver ending just 0.003 seconds behind Hamilton. His team-mate Yuki Tsunoda was unable to break into the top ten, with the Japanese racer ending twelfth after surviving a wild moment exiting the penultimate turn that saw him spin and almost hit the barriers.
Another driver to impress was Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s Antonio Giovinazzi, with the Italian an encouraging fifth, just three-quarters of a second off Verstappen. He was the fastest Ferrari-powered car, although the leading works Scuderia Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. was only 0.002 seconds back in sixth.
Sergio Pérez in the second Red Bull will be scratching his head as he was only seventh fastest, more than eight-tenths of a second away from his session-topping team-mate, and less than a tenth clear of eighth-placed Fernando Alonso of the Alpine F1 Team. Alonso was the last driver to set a representative lap time on the soft tyre, with his best lap coming within the last five minutes.
The second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc was ninth, while Sebastian Vettel completed the top ten for the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, with the German finishing 0.004 seconds ahead of his Canadian team-mate Lance Stroll.
Esteban Ocon was only two-tenths of a second behind his team-mate Alonso, but that gap meant that he was only thirteenth, while George Russell will go into Qualifying confident of continuing his unbroken run of Q2 appearances in 2021, with the Williams Racing driver fourteenth.
It was an extremely disappointing session for the McLaren F1 Team, with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo only fifteenth and sixteenth, while the second Alfa Romeo of Kimi Räikkönen was down in seventeenth, although less than four-tenths away from his team-mate Giovinazzi.
Bringing up the rear of the field, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin were eighteenth and twentieth for the Uralkali Haas F1 Team, either side of the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi.
But can anyone beat Verstappen in Qualifying? Based on his current form, it seems very unlikely. But you can never rule out anything in Formula 1, particularly with a fighting Hamilton in the field.
Red Bull Ring Free Practice 3 Result
|1||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||1:04.591||15|
|2||77||Valtteri Bottas||FIN||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:05.129||+0.538||22|
|3||44||Lewis Hamilton||GBR||Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team||1:05.277||+0.686||20|
|4||10||Pierre Gasly||FRA||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:05.280||+0.689||27|
|5||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||ITA||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:05.345||+0.754||27|
|6||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||ESP||Scuderia Ferrari||1:05.347||+0.756||29|
|7||11||Sergio Pérez||MEX||Red Bull Racing||1:05.396||+0.805||20|
|8||14||Fernando Alonso||ESP||Alpine F1 Team||1:05.434||+0.843||23|
|9||16||Charles Leclerc||MON||Scuderia Ferrari||1:05.484||+0.893||35|
|10||5||Sebastian Vettel||GER||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:05.542||+0.951||22|
|11||18||Lance Stroll||CAN||Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team||1:05.546||+0.955||19|
|12||22||Yuki Tsunoda||JAP||Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda||1:05.561||+0.970||23|
|13||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Alpine F1 Team||1:05.674||+1.083||22|
|14||63||George Russell||GBR||Williams Racing||1:05.694||+1.103||23|
|15||4||Lando Norris||ITA||McLaren F1 Team||1:05.700||+1.109||23|
|16||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||McLaren F1 Team||1:05.725||+1.134||21|
|17||7||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN||1:05.747||+1.156||31|
|18||47||Mick Schumacher||GER||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:06.078||+1.487||26|
|19||6||Nicholas Latifi||CAN||Williams Racing||1:06.105||+1.514||17|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin||RUS||Uralkali Haas F1 Team||1:06.289||+1.698||28|