Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Paul Ricard, 2021

Verstappen emphatically fastest in final practice

2021 French Grand Prix third practice

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Max Verstappen was comfortably the quickest driver in final practice for the French Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver ended the third session over seven-tenths of a second ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

The championship leader topped a session which lacked drama, with only a handful of drivers appearing to run at the limit in preparation for this afternoon’s qualifying session.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was third fastest ahead of Sergio Perez’s Red Bull, while Lewis Hamilton could only manage the fifth-fastest time, almost a second off the pace.

Overcast skies greeted the teams over the Le Castellet circuit as final practice got underway.

With a number of teams keen to reserve sets of the medium compound tyres for qualifying, it was a quiet start to the session, with no cars on track during the opening ten minutes of the session.

When drivers did eventually take to the track, Nikita Mazepin spun his Haas at the apex of turn two and was left cruising back to the pits on a ruined set of soft tyres – emulating Carlos Sainz Jnr’s spin in first practice.

The newly enforced track limits restrictions on the exit of turn six caught out a number of drivers, including Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Antonio Giovinazzi and Yuki Tusnoda all having lap times deleted for running outside the white lines.

The vast majority of teams opted to run on the soft tyres. Bottas sat atop the timing screens followed by Sainz and Perez’s Red Bull.

Verstappen made up for having an earlier time deleted for track limits by lowering the fastest lap of the weekend with a 1’31.300, seven tenths quicker than Bottas.

Mick Schumacher was fortunate not to trip over Sainz’s slow-moving Ferrari into the Mistral chicane as Sainz was returning to the pits on an in-lap.

Heading into the final moments of the session, Sainz was also the only driver in the top ten to attempt a final qualifying simulation run, but failed to improve his time.

That left Verstappen to top the final practice session ahead of Bottas, Sainz and the second Red Bull of Perez fourth fastest . Verstappen’s championship rival Lewis Hamilton finished the session in fifth, ahead of Lando Norris’s McLaren and the two Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon.

Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top 10, with the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in 11th.

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2021 French Grand Prix third practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
133Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’31.30011
277Valtteri BottasMercedes1’32.0470.74714
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’32.1950.89517
411Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’32.2380.93815
544Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.2660.96614
64Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.3361.03614
714Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’32.6241.32415
831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’32.6811.38116
910Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’32.7071.40716
103Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.7591.45914
1116Charles LeclercFerrari1’32.8201.52015
1299Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’33.0171.71717
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’33.0511.75115
145Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’33.2001.90018
157Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’33.3282.02816
1663George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’33.3642.06416
1722Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’33.4242.12417
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’33.5842.28416
1947Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’34.1432.84314
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’34.6423.34213

Third practice visual gaps

Max Verstappen – 1’31.300

+0.747 Valtteri Bottas – 1’32.047

+0.895 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’32.195

+0.938 Sergio Perez – 1’32.238

+0.966 Lewis Hamilton – 1’32.266

+1.036 Lando Norris – 1’32.336

+1.324 Fernando Alonso – 1’32.624

+1.381 Esteban Ocon – 1’32.681

+1.407 Pierre Gasly – 1’32.707

+1.459 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’32.759

+1.520 Charles Leclerc – 1’32.820

+1.717 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’33.017

+1.751 Lance Stroll – 1’33.051

+1.900 Sebastian Vettel – 1’33.200

+2.028 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’33.328

+2.064 George Russell – 1’33.364

+2.124 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’33.424

+2.284 Nicholas Latifi – 1’33.584

+2.843 Mick Schumacher – 1’34.143

+3.342 Nikita Mazepin – 1’34.642

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

PosDriverCarFP1FP2FP3Fri/Sat diffTotal laps
1Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’33.8801’32.8721’31.300-1.57255
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’33.4481’32.8801’32.047-0.83364
3Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’35.3421’33.6981’32.195-1.50364
4Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’34.1931’33.9211’32.238-1.68364
5Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.7831’33.1251’32.266-0.85958
6Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’34.7071’33.8221’32.336-1.48659
7Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’34.6931’33.3401’32.624-0.71661
8Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’34.3291’33.6851’32.681-1.00464
9Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’34.6991’33.6961’32.707-0.98961
10Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’34.6441’34.0791’32.759-1.3261
11Charles LeclercFerrari1’34.9501’33.5501’32.820-0.7362
12Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.1161’33.8311’33.017-0.81463
13Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.2751’34.6321’33.051-1.58162
14Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’35.2891’34.4471’33.200-1.24759
15Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.1351’33.7861’33.328-0.45862
16George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’35.2661’33.364-1.90241
17Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’34.8471’33.9551’33.424-0.53164
18Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’35.6121’35.3311’33.584-1.74763
19Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’37.3291’35.5121’34.143-1.36952
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’36.6511’35.5511’34.642-0.90960
21Roy NissanyWilliams-Mercedes1’37.88116

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2021 French Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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29 comments on “Verstappen emphatically fastest in final practice”

  1. Mercedes and particularly Hamilton seem to have got themselves in a bit of a downward spin.

    1. Yes. Interesting isnt it.
      I was thinking, up until this session, that it’s just Merc keeping something up their sleeve. This FP3 has made me question that for the first time.
      Lewis had made a couple of big errors this year but those luckily haven’t impacted too much on the overall standings. Has been nip and tuck between Max & Lewis and I think Max is so far worth hao point lead. Think the standings are a good, fair reflection on how the WDC has gone so far but Max could easily be further ahead and there could be no complaints.
      So odd that Merc were so quick at Spain but have seemingly lost all that pace.
      For the first time though I do feel this is a genuine title title for Max & RB. How that turns out will be exciting to watch.

      1. “…genuine title TILT…”

      2. I’ve had the feeling this is a real title fight since Monaco and Hamilton’s bad weekend. Basically Hamilton behind Bottas on pace/car confidence is ominous for Mercedes: in that situation, Max is going to win the championship and Red Bull have an excellent chance of the WCC. Hamilton ‘bounced back’ at Baku, albeit with some help in qualifying from a Bottas tow, and then we had that second of the big mistakes you mention. Maybe this weekend is down to the chassis change and Ham/Merc can sort it. Or at least by the next race. But meanwhile Max’s superb consistency shines through. Unlike Ferrari in recent years, the current Red Bull team still knows how to win championships and I can’t see them or Max falling by the wayside now.

    2. @david-br I think this years changes that hit the car concept is the biggest difference, they may have some of the performance back but if it impacts balance ( which seems to be impacting Ham, more than Bottas) then there are still challenges ahead for Merc, where as Max and Rbr are going from strength to strength, this could be the year…

      1. @icarby Yes, that’s what I mentioned below too. I think it’s still an even-ish fight, but Mercedes need Hamilton battling at the front with Max (or Max/Checo) as at Baku to have any chance. Hamilton having car issues and/or being off form is a real problem.

        1. Yes, it’s pretty obvious that if something were to happen to hamilton, bottas would lose the championship, no question, he’s just not threatening, you can always count on hamilton giving a challenge if he’s 2nd behind verstappen, not bottas.

    3. Its just FP, nothing to conclude from this. Besides, Mercedes is by far the team that often sandbags or is otherwise folling around to create a different picture from reality

      1. Spot On!

      2. Obviously such a big gap isn’t likely in qualifying. But the Bottas-Hamilton gap is real. If maintained, can you really see Bottas leading the fight to stop Max getting poll and winning the race? The answer I’m sure is no.

  2. Mercedes’ wings clipped with the new Pirelli rules…

  3. An absolute blinder by Max there. Can’t wait for qualifying.

  4. It is interesting that Verstappen is about 2 tenths off his time of 2019 in FP3, while the Mercedes cars are close to two seconds off. I get different circumstances, perhaps fuel etc and maybe tyre difference and the rule change, but that much seems too much to not partly be about engine mode from them, so I would expect to see them (all; FP3->Q3 was almost 2s faster in 2019) closer to the 1:28.3 Hamilton set pole with in 2019, but not convinced they will get close enough to make it an interesting fight (so I suppose then all there is to do is wonder how close Verstappen gets to that laptime? I predicted a low 1:29, ie. Verstappen still going about 2s faster than FP3).

    1. The rule changes clearly affected low rake cars much worse @bosyber. I don’t think the expectation that Mercedes could find a simple solution was that realistic. Sure they’re tweaking away to bring back rear downforce but Red Bull aren’t going to be sitting still either. On top of that, Hamilton would normally be 2-3 tenths up on Bottas on a Saturday morning at this kind of track, instead the opposite.

    2. Last time we had Verstappen going 7 tenths in FP3, was at the season opener in Bahrain. He then qualified on pole by almost 4 tenths of a second. It’s clear that Red Bull have the advantage in qualifying. But will that be the same for the race?

      1. Well, generally (I’m saying this post qualifying, but it’s also true it’s been the same this year and would’ve said it even before qualifying if I had been awake) this year mercedes performed better in the race and red bull in qualifying, there’s not a single regular track (non street) where I can say red bull was faster in the race, at best even (bahrain), normally slower, but most of the time they had that little something in qualifying.

  5. Is it Red Bull running on new PU? Few days back saw there’s speculation the new PU would fixed the vibration issue which causes them to turn-down engine mode since Bahrain…

    1. Yes, RB have got a new PU for this weekend.

    2. Surely seems there’s a good chunk of performance in that, looking at the speeds in sector 2

  6. I still wouldn’t count out Mercedes for qualifying. They had pretty average top speeds and lost almost all of their time in S3 (0.5-0.6). This suggests they ran more fuel than Verstappen on their 2nd run in FP3.
    But it doesn’t look as comfortable for Mercedes as they might have hoped for, that’s for sure. They might be missing about 0.2 to beat Verstappen to pole. Let’s see what happens.

    My predictions for quali: VER-BOT-HAM-PER-LEC

    1. Wow, you were almost right with the prediction, think only a few hundreths off with the gap from verstappen to 2nd place mercedes.

  7. Where are all the clowns still claiming that Mercedes is the fastest car.

    1. Imagine if Mercedes didn’t exist. They’d be claiming McLaren actually have the faster car…

    2. There’s one called Mayrton who – if anything – is now beating that drum even louder.

      1. But at least he thinks Ferrari are noobs right now.
        (but should I stop bragging that up?)

    3. Don’t worry, if HAM wins the WDC there still say He had the fastest car…and if He losses there still say He had the…you get the picture.

    4. We’re not clowns, we examine the facts: mercedes so far imo was faster in the following cases:

      1) Bahrain race: not faster, nor slower
      2) Imola race: faster
      3) Portugal race: faster
      4) Spain race: faster

      With potential for being even also in some other qualifying session, at least spain, possibly portugal.

  8. Verstappen emphatically fastest in final practice

    Come on what the hell means that in that contest could you use Divine, fantastic, Super something a normal mortal could understand!

    1. But Duncan, you are immortal.
      Probably hard to remember after all these years..

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