Bahrain GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report
By Dan Knutson in Manama
The hot conditions of Free Practice 3 - much hotter than it would be in qualifying that evening - created a scenario where all the big guns were not keen to go for fast laps, or any flying laps at all for that matter - for much of the session. It was only in final moments of the allotted time, therefore, that those drivers began to contest for the top spots.
And Max Verstappen topped them all in his Red Bull.
The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.
Vettel was quickest in both Friday sessions, but his car had problems in FP2 and Raikkonen in FP1.
"We've got a few new parts on the car this weekend," Ferrari's technical director Mattia Binotto said. "The most obvious was the front wing. To see how if they are behaving well or not, we need some more analysis. So far, so good but let's see when the engineers have looked at all the data what we run for the rest of the weekend.
"On the problems we've got: In FP1, power unit issues for Kimi. We changed it for the afternoon, just a precaution, important for us to make sure Kimi could run in the afternoon trouble free. And then for what happened, honestly it's still to be fully understood. We analyze all the parts and hopefully all the elements of the power unit could be used in the future once again and sorted out.
"In the afternoon with Seb we had a minor electrical problem but this one is not too worrying and we had the opportunity to run once again within the afternoon."
Weather conditions for FP3 were hot, just as they had been for FP1. And therefore the data gained by the teams was rather irrelevant to qualifying and the race run after sunset.
The ambient temperature at the start of the 60-minute session was 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Centigrade).
Vettel's best time on Friday was a 1:31.310 set in the cooler evening FP2 session on Pirelli's super soft compound slicks. The other two tire choices were the soft and medium compounds.
Sainz, Grosjean and Vettel were the first on track for FP3.
Most of the drivers were on the medium tires for their install laps, but Sainz tried to super softs and recorded a 1:34.219. Only Sainz, Ocon and Perez set times in the first 21 minutes.
The other 17 drivers stayed in the pits until Stroll headed out on the super softs to clock a 1:36.036. Soon others were getting back to work including Hulkenberg put his Renault third, and Kvyat who put his Toro Rosso first with a 1:33.934.
The Ferrari, Red Bull, Haas and Mercedes drivers had yet to record a time as FP3 approached the halfway mark.
Bottas was the first of that group to have a go, and he used the super softs to set a 1:36.976 after going wide in the final corner. Then Massa took the lead after setting a 1:33.720 using the supers.
Verstappen, on softs, got down to a 1:33.294 despite several offs.
Grosjean spun into the wall at Turn 5 and that brought out the red flags with 23 minutes remaining. He got going again and drove back to the pits sans front wing [which was stuck into the tire barriers] on the Haas.
Eighteen minutes remained when the session was restarted. The Ferrari drivers finally took off for some flying laps. So did Hamilton. All three were on the super softs. So was Bottas.
Raikkonen went to the front with a 1:32.785. Bottas beat that with a 1:32.754. Vettel went off on run one but got to a 1:32.750 on run two.
Hamilton aborted his next attempt and headed pit-side.
With five minutes remaining the top five were: Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Massa and Hulkenberg. But now Hamilton and Ricciardo were on track again as were Verstappen and others. On the soft tires‚Ä¶
Verstappen went to the top with a 1:32.194. Ricciardo seventh with a 1:32.809. Hamilton second with a 1:32.304.
The top 10 of the session that finally became hotly contested were: Verstappen, Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Massa, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Kvyat.