Azerbaijan GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report

Prevented

Valtteri Bottas, Azerbaijan GP 2017

Valtteri Bottas, Azerbaijan GP 2017 

 © RV Press

 

By Dan Knutson

Valtteri Bottas topped the times in Free Practice 3. But yellow flags late in the session prevented some drivers from making one last fast lap run. That included Bottas, so the true pace of the cars would not be revealed until qualifying.

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.

Verstappen went fastest in both sessions on Friday with his best time being a 1:43.362 on Pirelli’s super soft tires. But he had crashed in the final moments of FP2.

“I think the whole day has been really positive, except the last lap,” the Red Bull driver said on Friday. “Everything else was working really good. So from that point I felt very good in the car even though, I think, in my short runs in the second practice I couldn’t really take the maximum out of it because of traffic and yellow flags. We can be quite happy.”

Palmer, who crashed in FP2, was the first out in FP3. Things continued to go the wrong way when his Renault caught fire and he had to stop on track for the marshals to extinguish the blaze.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 60-minute session was 79 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 133 degrees Fahrenheit (56 degrees Centigrade).

Pirelli had its medium, soft and super soft slicks available, but the yellow flags at Turn 2 for Palmer’s car meant the drivers could not for a fast lap time. Once the track was clear, Bottas used the softs to set a 1:43.720.

Halfway through the session the order was Bottas, Massa, Raikkonen. Perez, Vettel and Hamilton. But the drivers had yet to do their qualifying sims.

Bottas switched to the super softs but could not improve his time on his first run.

Finally, with less than 20 minutes remaining, Hamilton got on the supers and clocked a 1:43.348 to go fastest. Bottas’ next lap was 0.082 of a second slower.

Verstappen was complaining about his engine, and the team asked him to make some adjustments on the steering wheel. But he still got up to third.

Now everybody was doing their fast laps, and Massa, Raikkonen and Ricciardo now rounded out the top six with 15 minutes to go.

Bottas took the lead with a 1:43.057. Then Raikkonen put in a 1:42.837. Bottas came back with a 1:42.742.

Five minutes to go and it was all over for Verstappen who pulled to a stop on the main straight. The clutch failed and everything is switched off, he radioed.

That meant yellow flags and no chance for the others to go any quicker. But the marshals got the track cleared with just over seven minutes to go in the session.

The order was now Bottas, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Ocon, Verstappen and Massa. But Raikkonen was done for the day and climbed out of the Ferrari. Just about everybody else was on track in the final two minutes.

Stroll went down the escape road at Turn 2 and that meant more yellow flags.

The session came to an end with Bottas still ahead followed by Raikkonen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Ocon, Verstappen, Massa, Kvyat. Stroll and Perez.


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