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Verstappen completes F1 practice clean sweep at Bahrain GP

Max Verstappen completed a 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix practice clean sweep for Red Bull, as he topped FP3 by nearly three-quarters of a second over Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Track temperatures at the start of the final one-hour practice session of the weekend were nearly hitting 50-degrees, which meant the teams opted to spend the first 10 minutes in the pits – with only Yuki Tsunoda completing an installation lap when the track went live.

Valtteri Bottas ended the tedium after 10 minutes, eventually going straight out on the soft tyres for his first run.

But the Finn missed the Turn 1 apex on his first flying lap and ran off the track, then lost his next two flying laps for running too wide out of the wide Turn 4 right-hander, the times deleted for track limits infractions at that spot.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr therefore set the first P1 benchmark after nearly 20 minutes of the session had passed, a 1m33.931s on the hard tyres.

But Sainz was quickly demoted by Hamilton’s first flying lap of the session – like Bottas the world champion was out on the softs for his opening run – a 1m32.933s, which looked much more stable through the lap than the ones completed by his Mercedes team-mate.

A few minutes later, Verstappen went to the top of the times with his first flying run after 25 minutes had passed, as he set a 1m32.617s on the hard tyres.

This stood as the benchmark for over 10 minutes before Pierre Gasly swept into the top spot during another lull in action, the AlphaTauri driver setting a 1m32.321s on the softs.

After two thirds of the session had passed, the Mercedes cars went for another soft tyre run, with Bottas again going first.

His car appeared to be handling more compliantly and he duly went quickest with a 1m31.855s, demoting Sainz, who had gone quickest on a 1m32.108s on the medium tyres just ahead of Bottas.

But Hamilton was on a rapid lap behind and he blitzed to the top with a 1m31.316s that at the time featured the fastest times in all three sectors.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Then it was Red Bull’s turn to fit softs for the first time in FP3, with Sergio Perez running first.

Then Mexican was adrift of Hamilton’s time in the first two sectors and although he went then quickest of all in the final segment, he wound up 0.5s adrift of the Mercedes.

But Verstappen’s first soft-tyre flying lap was sublime – he edged Hamilton by 0.074s in the first sector and then looked supremely well balanced in the middle sector, which took him over 0.6s clear.

The fastest time in the final sector duly followed and Verstappen shot to the top with a 1m30.577s, which put into P1 by 0.739s over Hamilton.

Gasly had crossed the line on another soft-tyre flying lap just before Verstappen set the session’s best time, which was an improvement for the Frenchman that meant he finished the session in third place.

Bottas was therefore shuffled down to fourth, ahead of Perez and Sainz, who did not use the soft tyres for a flying lap in FP3.

Kimi Raikkonen led Esteban Ocon in seventh and eighth for Alfa Romeo and Alpine respectively, with Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top 10.

Charles Leclerc had an early-session spin, losing the rear of his SF21 as he put the power down after clipping the Turn 2 apex.

But the Ferrari driver was able to stop well before reaching the gravel trap and the barriers beyond – where Raikkonen crashed in FP2 – and he recovered to the pits before ending up with the session’s 11th best time – also set on the medium tyres.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF21

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Tsunoda finished 13th, ahead of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who had to pit mid-way through the session after a part from the front-left of his AMR21 appeared to work its way loose and glanced off the four-time world champion’s helmet.

Fernando Alonso was 15th in the second Alpine car, just in front of Lando Norris and George Russell.

Nikita Mazepin was another spinner, losing the rear of his Haas at the 30-minute mark, as he went through the high-speed Turns 6/7 sequence early in the middle sector.

Mazepin ended up 19th, with Nicholas Latifi last for Williams.

F1 Bahrain GP - FP3 results

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 11 1'30.577  
2 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 14 1'31.316 0.739
3 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 13 1'31.583 1.006
4 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 16 1'31.855 1.278
5 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 11 1'31.908 1.331
6 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 16 1'32.108 1.531
7 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 15 1'32.224 1.647
8 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 11 1'32.423 1.846
9 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 13 1'32.431 1.854
10 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 12 1'32.477 1.900

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