F1 Bahrain GP: Alonso beats both Red Bulls again to top final practice

Fernando Alonso edged out Max Verstappen by 0.005s in final practice for Formula 1's Bahrain Grand Prix, setting up a mouth-watering qualifying battle.

F1 Bahrain GP: Alonso beats both Red Bulls again to top final practice

The sweltering afternoon conditions in Sakhir were not particularly inviting for fast times, with early laps over two seconds slower than during Friday night's FP2.

After some unrepresentative efforts Ferrari's Charles Leclerc went top with a 1m33.574s on softs, a time which was gradually improved upon by first Lewis Hamilton and then Alonso.

The Spaniard, who had caused a stir by topping FP2, led at the halfway mark with a 1m33.121s, ahead of Hamilton, Carlos Sainz and Leclerc.

Verstappen was fifth at that stage, but ominously less than six tenths behind Alonso on the slower hard compound, even as he complained of having "no grip".

The pace picked up after the typical mid-session pause, with Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu briefly appearing in second.

It was the prelude to a flurry of faster times, led by Aston Martin's Lance Stroll. While recovering from a broken right wrist, the Canadian went top with a 1m32.010s with 15 minutes to go, establishing an Aston 1-2.

Mercedes pair Hamilton and George Russell was next up, Hamilton clocking a 1m32.555s to take over the lead, with Russell under two tenths in arrears in second.

Their time in the sun didn't last for long, as Verstappen returned on the soft tyres to take the lead, only for Alonso to beat him by 0.005s with his 1m32.450s.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Alonso's time held until the finish, setting up a tantalising battle in qualifying between incumbent Verstappen and challenger Alonso.

Perez took third one tenth behind Alonso and Verstappen, after initially joining his team-mate on a hard-tyre run.

A late attempt propelled Leclerc to fifth to split Hamilton and Russell, demoting Stroll to seventh.

Sainz also left it late to take eighth, followed by McLaren rookie Oscar Piastri, who showed early promise for the Woking team seven tenths behind Alonso.

Pierre Gasly was the first of the Alpines in 11th, ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon, Zhou and McLaren's Lando Norris.

Haas duo Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg finished 14th and 15th respectively after a low-key start to the session.

As predicted, Williams and AlphaTauri face a battle to stay off the last row. AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda was 16th, followed by Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas, who didn't get a representative lap in.

Williams rookie Logan Sargeant was 18th ahead of team-mate Alex Albon, with AlphaTauri newcomer Nyck de Vries propping up the timesheets.

Qualifying for F1 2023's curtain raiser follows at 6pm local time (3pm GMT) in cooler evening conditions.

F1 Bahrain GP - FP3 results

Cla Driver Chassis Engine Laps Time Gap
1 Spain Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Mercedes 13 1'32.340  
2 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 13 1'32.345 0.005
3 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 12 1'32.446 0.106
4 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 17 1'32.555 0.215
5 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 21 1'32.624 0.284
6 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes Mercedes 17 1'32.731 0.391
7 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 16 1'32.919 0.579
8 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari Ferrari 21 1'32.945 0.605
9 Australia Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 12 1'33.045 0.705
10 France Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 13 1'33.064 0.724
11 France Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 16 1'33.116 0.776
12 China Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 13 1'33.180 0.840
13 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 16 1'33.202 0.862
14 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 21 1'33.381 1.041
15 Germany Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 23 1'33.423 1.083
16 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 15 1'33.475 1.135
17 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 14 1'33.629 1.289
18 United States Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 15 1'33.665 1.325
19 Thailand Alex Albon Williams Mercedes 15 1'33.882 1.542
20 Netherlands Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri Red Bull 18 1'34.082 1.742
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