Bahrain GP | Verstappen shocks to the top in FP3

Max Verstappen tops final free practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The last session under the sun saw Max Verstappen top the timesheet as Formula one prepares for qualifying. Vettel had been in search of a hat-trick and had topped the sheet, but Verstappen’s late charge flipped the order. While Grosjean’s day had a torrid start with understeer, oversteer and a snapped front-wing.

Having topped both Friday sessions, Sebastian Vettel entered final practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix searching for a hat-trick. Thus carrying the fastest car into the night and into qualifying.

At first, his Ferrari remained firmly in the garage as Carlos Sainz broke the silence in the Sakhir desert.

Being first out usually means you are the first man to post a time in the session. But that honour was taken by Esteban Ocon after Sainz peeled back into the pits.

When Sainz later re-emerged but now running on supersoft tyres, Ocon’s benchmark was lowered. With the Toro Rosso driver going top by two-tenths of a second, before Daniil Kvyat lowered into the 1:33s in the sister car.

When Kvyat moved the benchmark into the 1:33s, none of the front runners had ventured out onto the track with the softest Pirelli compound fitted for a flying lap. And none would until later into the session and the red flags were cleared for Romain Grosjean.

Once the Haas was cleared from the track, Ferrari re-sent both drivers out. Having been forced to see Raikkonen return early having only just exited.

First times for the front cars saw Vettel nestle into third place. Running wide at T7 as a tailwind caught his car. Leaving Bottas to go quickest on a 1:32.754.

The gap between Bottas and second-placed Raikkonen’s times itself was a close margin. With just three-hundredths of a second separating the pair. But a later late from Vettel saw the German move back on top, just four-thousandths of a second up on the Silver Arrow.

From there, it appeared Vettel would have his hat-trick of fastest times in Bahrain practices. But a late push by Verstappen and Hamilton demoted the German down to third.

Verstappen’s late charge came at a surprise, with Red Bull not expected to challenge the front row due to the track design and cars shortcomings. That being said, however, did not stop Verstappen from dropping the hammer and moving top by half a second.

Hamilton then followed across the line having set new purple times in the opening two sectors. Only setting a personal best time in the final, however, saw Lewis cross the line a tenth of a second down and only good enough for second.

Early in the session, while others began their programmes, Hamilton was spending his time working on practice starts. But that was enough for the driver and team to both noticed that the front right brake was not working as well as the left.

Romain Grosjean also had a troubled start. Radioing in “I’ve got a lot of understeer. I’m going to do the aero runs, then I want you guys to check the data.”

But checking the data after completing his run failed to solve his issues. Later returning to the radio claiming his issues were now at the rear: “I’ve got a lot of oversteer now. I don’t know what’s going on. Need to change the front wing. Something’s not right.”

Romain then really had to change the front wing as when the rear stepped out on him at turn five, the carpet spun him further and he clouted the wall. Completely unable to stop the spin once the force hit his shark-fin and his tyres locked up.

Luckily, though, Grosjean’s suspension appeared completely intact and he was able to drive back to the pits under the red flags for his crash.

Pos Driver Chassis Engine Laps Time Gap
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 8 1’32.194
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 10 1’32.304 0.11
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 10 1’32.750 0.556
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 13 1’32.754 0.56
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 9 1’32.785 0.591
6 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 12 1’32.801 0.607
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 8 1’32.809 0.615
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 9 1’32.933 0.739
9 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 18 1’33.604 1.41
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 11 1’33.744 1.55
11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 14 1’33.916 1.722
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 10 1’33.922 1.728
13 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 15 1’33.947 1.753
14 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 15 1’33.965 1.771
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 15 1’34.027 1.833
16 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 17 1’34.064 1.87
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 13 1’34.198 2.004
18 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 14 1’34.205 2.011
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 15 1’34.268 2.074
20 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 11 1’34.417 2.223