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2024 Bahrain F1 test: Leclerc pips Russell to top final session

Charles Leclerc and Ferrari ended the third day of Bahrain winter testing on top as Formula 1's 2024 pre-season came to a close.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Leclerc's team-mate Carlos Sainz had led the final morning session from Red Bull's Sergio Perez before running was interrupted by a broken drain cover for the second day in a row.

Because repairs halted the test for 1h17m, the decision was taken to cancel the planned one-hour lunch break and carry on all the way to the chequered flag at 7pm local time.

There was early trouble for McLaren, which added to its testing gremlins this week with an apparent clutch issue for Lando Norris. Sauber's Valtteri Bottas also ran a restricted programme while his team worked on the floor and rear end of his car.

In the afternoon Max Verstappen took over from Perez in the RB20, while Leclerc replaced Sainz in the scarlet Ferrari.

Leclerc soon went third-fastest behind Sainz and Perez until Verstappen put down a 1m31.058s, followed by a 1m30.763s on used C3 tyres 25 minutes later.

Leclerc replied with a 1m30.409s to go faster, but used the C4 compound that is a significant step softer and won't be used at next week's Bahrain Grand Prix at the same Sakhir circuit.

With two hours left to run the Monegasque driver took on another set of the red side-walled tyre to clock a 1m30.322s, going four tenths clear of the world champion.

Heading towards the final hour most heavy hitters switched their focus to longer runs on the hardest tyres.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

But RB's Yuki Tsunoda used C4s to vault up to third in the final hour, half a second shy of Leclerc.

He was soon shadowed by George Russell on the harder C3 tyre, while Alex Albon lifted himself up to fifth with a late C4 lap.

Albon was the only driver to stay in the car all day, completing 121 laps aboard the Williams FW46.

Bolting on the C4s himself, Mercedes driver Russell then attacked Leclerc's table-topping time but a purple third sector wasn't enough to dislodge the Ferrari as the Briton finished second, 0.046s behind.

Sauber driver Zhou Guanyu followed Russell through in third with a 1m30.647s, which demoted Verstappen to fourth.

Behind Tsunoda and Albon, McLaren's Oscar Piastri and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso had moved up right before sunset to end the test seventh and eighth respectively.

Sainz's morning time held up for ninth ahead of Perez and Haas man Nico Hulkenberg.

Lewis Hamilton finished off his winter test in 12th after running 49 laps in the morning. He was followed by morning runners Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) and Norris.

George Russell, Mercedes W15

George Russell, Mercedes W15

Photo by: Erik Junius

Pierre Gasly and Esteban completed a low-key test for Alpine in 15th and 17th respectively, split by Haas' Kevin Magnussen.

After his limited morning running Bottas was 18th, with RB's Daniel Ricciardo the slowest of the 19 active drivers on Friday.

The 2024 season kicks off in earnest on Thursday with first practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix, which this year will be held on a Saturday.

F1 Bahrain pre-season test results on day three

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps Tyres
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.322   74 C4
2 George Russell Mercedes 1:30.368 +0.046s 67 C4
3 Zhou Guanyu Sauber 1:30.647 +0.325s 85 C4
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:30.755 +0.433s 66 C3
5 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:30.775 +0.453s 53 C4
6 Alexander Albon Williams 1:30.984 +0.662s 121 C4
7 Oscar Piastri Mclaren 1:31.030 +0.708s 91 C3
8 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:31.159 +0.837s 75 C3
9 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:31.247 +0.925s 71 C3
10 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 1:31.483 +1.161s 53 C3
11 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 1:31.686 +1.364s 89 C3
12 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.999 +1.677s 49 C5
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:32.038 +1.716s 46 C3
14 Lando Norris Mclaren 1:32.108 +1.786s 20 C3
15 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:32.149 +1.827s 47 C3
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:33.053 +2.731s 80 C3
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:33.079 +2.757s 55 C3
18 Valtteri Bottas Sauber 1:33.528 +3.206s 28 C3
19 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:37.015 +6.693s 70 C1

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