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F1 Bahrain GP: Verstappen tops final practice from Leclerc

Red Bull's Max Verstappen narrowly beat Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to the fastest time in third free practice for Formula 1's Bahrain Grand Prix, setting up an intriguing first qualifying session of the 2022 season.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Motorsport Images

Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou opened the final one-hour practice session at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Lewis Hamilton also out on track early as he continued to search for solutions for the Mercedes W13's handling issues.

Hamilton was the first driver to set a half decent lap with a 1m34.256s on softs as drivers had to re-adjust to the windy daytime conditions, which are not entirely representative ahead of this evening's qualifying session.

After 20 minutes times finally started to tumble thanks to Ferrari duo Carlos Sainz Jr and Charles Leclerc, split by the Red Bull of Sergio Perez, the leading trio all on soft tyres.

World champion Max Verstappen's first effort - some 25 minutes into the session - was enough to vault to the top of the timesheets, his soft-shod 1m33.035s making him 0.762s quicker than Leclerc.

Leclerc's bid to respond to Verstappen's time ended in the Turn 11 gravel trap. The Monegasque driver reacted to oversteer on exit and as the car gripped back up, he was spat out on the right-hand side.

Leclerc managed to make his way back to the pits without damage, while team-mate Sainz jumped Perez for third.

After a mid-session lull, action picked back up in the final 25 minutes. Hamilton brought the session back to life with a time of 1m33.121s on softs, his fastest time of the weekend.

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

It yielded the Briton second, just 0.086s shy of Verstappen, albeit still a second off Verstappen's FP2 leading time.

Sainz soon demoted Hamilton to third by virtue of a 1m33.053s lap on softs, before George Russell went top with a 1m32.935s in the Mercedes fitted with Pirelli's softest compound.

With nearly everyone out on softs at this stage, all eyes were on Verstappen to drive up the pace, but he backed off from a first attempt after locking up the right-front tyre into Turn 1.

Leclerc did carry on to briefly take top with a time of 1m32.640s, putting three tenths on Russell on a lap that he called "not great" on the team radio.

While still lagging behind in the first sector, Verstappen's second attempt was tidy enough to re-take first from Leclerc with a 1m32.544s.

Verstappen's time was good enough to survive a frantic final 10 minutes at Sakhir, heading Leclerc, Perez and Russell.

Sainz was fifth, with Hamilton following in sixth just under six-tenths of a second behind his 2021 rival.

Haas showcased its improved form with a promising seventh time for returnee Kevin Magnussen, following 0.9s behind the leaders.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Alfa Romeo also underlined its best of the rest hopes with an eighth and ninth time respectively for Bottas and Zhou.

Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 for Aston Martin, with McLaren's Lando Norris 11th after another low-key outing for the Woking team.

Nico Hulkenberg, who replaces Sebastian Vettel due to a positive COVID-19 test, took 12th ahead of AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly.

Mick Schumacher was 14th for Haas, ahead of the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.

Alpine's low-key start continued as neither Fernando Alonso nor Esteban Ocon showed their hand on Pirelli's softest compound. The pair finished 16th and 18th respectively using the mediums.

They were split by the first Williams of Alex Albon, while Albon's team-mate Nicholas Latifi was last of the 19 runners, the Grove outfit continuing its worrying pre-season trend.

Yuki Tsunoda didn't make it out due to hydraulic problems on his AlphaTauri.

Qualifying for F1 2022's first grand prix follows at 6pm local Bahrain time, or 3pm GMT.

F1 Bahrain Grand Prix - FP3 results

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 15 1'32.544  
2 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 16 1'32.640 0.096
3 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 20 1'32.791 0.247
4 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes 19 1'32.935 0.391
5 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr Ferrari 20 1'33.053 0.509
6 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 15 1'33.121 0.577
7 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 15 1'33.437 0.893
8 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 21 1'33.733 1.189
9 China Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo 18 1'33.880 1.336
10 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 14 1'33.920 1.376
11 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 18 1'33.955 1.411
12 Germany Nico Hulkenberg Aston Martin 18 1'33.971 1.427
13 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 18 1'34.176 1.632
14 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas 17 1'34.295 1.751
15 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 20 1'34.378 1.834
16 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine 15 1'34.628 2.084
17 Thailand Alex Albon Williams 15 1'34.868 2.324
18 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 16 1'34.957 2.413
19 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 14 1'35.667 3.123
20 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 0    

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