Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel confirmed their status as favourites for this afternoon’s qualifying in Baku, the Scuderia pair topping the final free practice session.
Leclerc finished 0.198s ahead of his team mate, but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen also positioned himself as a contender for Saturday’s shootout, beating Mercedes Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton as the first runner-up to the strong Ferrari pair.
Baku Free Practice 3 – Results
Yesterday’s restricted running meant that teams were in overdrive at the outset when the final practice session kicked off.
That held especially true for Williams and George Russell, the unwilling victim of Friday’s manhole cover drama.
The Brit proceeded with caution however when he took to the track for his installation lap onboard a new chassis built up from scratch by Williams in the past 24 hours.
Valtteri Bottas was the first driver to get down to serious business, setting the fastest time and then lowering the bar several times.
But Charles Leclerc, who looked very much like a man on a mission on Friday, was quick to resume his superiority, putting in a 1m44.352s that beat Bottas.
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Hamilton briefly demoted Leclerc, but the Monegasque – running on Pirelli’s soft compound – recaptured what he felt was rightfully his, lowering his time to 1m42.638s.
Vettel managed to snatch second from Hamilton but failed to approach his team mate’s best.
Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon was once again in sparkling form, just edging for fourth fellow Honda contenders Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat.
With track conditions improving and drivers shod on soft tyres, times were set to improve in the final minutes of the session as quali simulation were in order.
In a bid to move up the order after spending most of FP3 making up the rear, Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was seen running down an escape road.
The Frenchman was optimistic about his prospects in Baku earlier this week, but his level of performance hasn’t been as good as expectations, not to mention the hit to his morale following the pitlane start that will be imposed on him tomorrow for missing the weighbridge in FP2.
After bolting on a fresh set of soft tyres on his RB15, Verstappen jumped ahead of both Mercedes and Vettel to put himself second behind the unassailable Leclerc.
Vettel tried to respond to his team mate’s impressive efforts but ended up down the escape road at Turn 1. Meanwhile, Hamilton endured a similar fate, visiting the run-off area at Turn 3.
Vettel managed nevertheless to wrestle back second from Verstappen while Bottas and Hamilton remained P4 and P5.
Kvyat secured sixth, just beating a last ditch effort from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. Albon, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen rounded off the top-10.
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