Formula 1

FP3: Bottas tops final practice at Portimao as Verstappen closes in on Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas made it a hat-trick of fastest laps in Portuguese Grand Prix practice as he set the benchmark again in FP3 on Saturday morning, just ahead of Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen a close third in a session that was ended one minute early after a raised drain cover brought out the red flags.

After an incident-packed FP2 that saw crashes and cars on fire, this session may have seemed relatively sedate – but there was lots of action as soft-tyre flying laps came thick and fast. Bottas, who topped both Friday practice sessions, set a fastest lap of 1m16.654s with Hamilton – who had a brief off at Turn 8 on a flying effort – just 0.026s behind.

Although track limits have been revised after Friday’s running, numerous lap times were deleted at Turns 1 at 4 again and Max Verstappen had a session-leading time – on medium tyres – chalked off early on. However, he managed to finish 0.158s off Bottas and Alex Albon completed a successful session for Red Bull with fifth place, 0.3s off his team mate.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly had his car go up in smoke in FP2 but recovered to finish an impressive fourth overall in FP3, just a tenth off former team mate Verstappen as he was sandwiched between the Red Bulls on the leaderboard.


Practice 3 results

1  ValtteriBOTTASMercedes 1:16.654
2  LewisHAMILTONMercedes +0.026s
3  MaxVERSTAPPENRed Bull Racing +0.158s
4  PierreGASLYAlphaTauri +0.276s
5  AlexanderALBONRed Bull Racing +0.463s

Charles Leclerc is targeting a top six spot in qualifying and continued his fine pace with the upgraded Ferrari SF1000 to finish sixth, though team mate Sebastian Vettel was 11th overall, and it was the German who ran over the drain cover at Turn 14, causing the session to be red flagged with just a minute remaining.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who took a new engine, turbo and MGU-H on Saturday morning, was just a hundredth of a second off Leclerc in P7. In turn, Sergio Perez took P8 for Racing Point, under a tenth away from Sainz. Lando Norris put his McLaren ninth, and was the last driver under a second away from Bottas.

Renault’s session was marred by Daniel Ricciardo’s DRS failure after the midway point, and the Australian took P14 overall, while team mate Esteban Ocon finished 10th. Ricciardo emerged late in FP3 but that red flag prompted a swift retreat to the pits, ending his hopes of a representative qualifying run.

Just ahead of Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat was 12th overall for AlphaTauri, holding off Alfa Romeo’s 13th-place Kimi Raikkonen by two-tenths.

Williams’ George Russell took a solid 15th in FP3, faster than Racing Point’s Lance Stroll (16th) and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi (17th)

In 18th place was Haas’s Kevin Magnussen, while his team mate Romain Grosjean rounded out the standings in P20. Between them was Williams rookie Nicholas Latifi.

The conditions are perfect in Portugal and Mercedes’ pace looks impressive – but Verstappen’s deleted medium-tyred run will worry the Silver Arrows as qualifying approaches at 1400 local time. Can the Dutchman get ahead of them when it counts for the grid? We’ll have full coverage here on…

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