Bottas leads Mercedes one-two ahead of qualifying in Qatar

2021 Qatar Grand Prix third practice

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Mercedes emphatically led the final practice session for the Qatar Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas lapping three-tenths of a second faster than the closest Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton made it a one-two for the W12s in the final daylight session at the desert track, the pair separated by less than a tenth of a second.

Nikita Mazepin’s frustrations continued after being unable to participate in the second practice session yesterday. The Haas driver was first to reach the pit exit when the session began, but got no further as a problem developed on his car. “The car did not sound right, the engine did sound different,” said Mazepin.

The session was red-flagged and the Haas mechanics ran to the pit lane exit to retrieve the VF-21. Mazepin never returned to the track, meaning the rookie has run just 16 laps of Losail, ahead of qualifying, all in first practice.

Mercedes were fastest throughout much of the session, with Bottas usually a fraction ahead of his team mate. In between runs, Verstappen’s car spent much of the session behind a wall of Red Bull mechanics’ bodies, hiding work that was taking place on the rear wing. The upper flap again fluctuated visibly during his fast laps as it had in Brazil.

Despite covering just nine laps and incurring front wing damage by running wide at one point, Verstappen ended the session in third place. Pierre Gasly, second in both of yesterday’s sessions, fell to third, splitting the Red Bulls at the chequered flag.

Yuki Tsunoda could not show the same pace but did manage to keep himself 10th-fastest, preserving what looks like a very strong weekend for AlphaTauri. Alpine did not struggle as they did yesterday under the floodlights yesterday, Fernando Alonso leading Esteban Ocon to split the two Ferrari drivers in seventh and eighth.

Track limits, which have been revised again since second practice, remained a problem. Several drivers struggled with the exits of turns 14 and 15 during the session. Perez and Lando Norris both took wide arcs off track at this point.

Charles Leclerc had a strange spin out of turn two, collecting a cloud of dust from the Astroturf run-off and Gasly also performed a low-speed pirouette on-track on an out lap.

The final practice session saw higher track temperatures than yesterday evening’s running, though it wasn’t as hot as the opening hour. By the time the chequered flag fell the track temperature was just 34C, and is likely to only fall slightly further after sundown.

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix third practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
177Valtteri BottasMercedes1’22.31017
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’22.3880.07816
333Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’22.6510.34110
410Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’22.8350.52517
511Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’22.8460.53614
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’23.0480.73817
714Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’23.1860.87613
831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’23.2090.89918
916Charles LeclercFerrari1’23.2760.96617
1022Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’23.5671.25720
113Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’23.7111.40114
125Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’23.8841.57417
134Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’23.8951.58516
1463George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’23.9231.61317
1518Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’24.1541.84417
167Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’24.2461.93619
1799Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’24.2881.97817
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’24.4992.18915
1947Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’24.6802.37020
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari

Third practice visual gaps

Valtteri Bottas – 1’22.310

+0.078 Lewis Hamilton – 1’22.388

+0.341 Max Verstappen – 1’22.651

+0.525 Pierre Gasly – 1’22.835

+0.536 Sergio Perez – 1’22.846

+0.738 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’23.048

+0.876 Fernando Alonso – 1’23.186

+0.899 Esteban Ocon – 1’23.209

+0.966 Charles Leclerc – 1’23.276

+1.257 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’23.567

+1.401 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’23.711

+1.574 Sebastian Vettel – 1’23.884

+1.585 Lando Norris – 1’23.895

+1.613 George Russell – 1’23.923

+1.844 Lance Stroll – 1’24.154

+1.936 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’24.246

+1.978 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’24.288

+2.189 Nicholas Latifi – 1’24.499

+2.370 Mick Schumacher – 1’24.680

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

PosDriverCarFP1FP2FP3Fri/Sat diffTotal laps
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’24.1941’23.1481’22.310-0.83868
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’24.5091’23.5701’22.388-1.18262
3Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’23.7231’23.4981’22.651-0.84752
4Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’24.1601’23.3571’22.835-0.52272
5Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’24.9151’23.7871’22.846-0.94156
6Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’24.7131’24.0331’23.048-0.98571
7Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’25.9051’24.0561’23.186-0.8759
8Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’24.9721’24.0411’23.209-0.83270
9Charles LeclercFerrari1’24.7901’24.0951’23.276-0.81967
10Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’24.6481’23.7351’23.567-0.16875
11Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’25.2151’23.6321’23.895+0.26359
12Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’26.7121’23.7051’24.154+0.44954
13Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’25.2911’24.1351’23.711-0.42462
14Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’25.3281’24.0201’23.884-0.13663
15George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’25.8711’24.9541’23.923-1.03168
16Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’25.8281’24.6311’24.246-0.38570
17Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’25.7571’25.0721’24.288-0.78463
18Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’25.6881’25.2091’24.499-0.7167
19Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’26.6991’25.5751’24.680-0.89568
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’27.50017

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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43 comments on “Bottas leads Mercedes one-two ahead of qualifying in Qatar”

  1. New business idea: selling magic beans to people who believe the Mercedes hasn’t been the best car of the season.

    1. I agree, when redbull win its all max, when its merc, its just the car and the 7 time champ is a fraud and the challanger who has won never won the f1 championship ever is the real champ who couldnt even win in f3 and has a completely different set of rules to the rest of the grid.

    2. @hahostolze :O) How much a kilo?

    3. Even Max has said it has been quite evenly balanced over the season as a whole. What happened in Mexico and why is your memory so short @hahostolze?

      My opinion is that they have both had quick cars, some faster than others at many tracks. Getting tired of these comments.

    4. The cars are very close, and what’s ultimately hurting Verstappen most – aside from being punted off by Hamilton and suffering the Pirelli failure in Baku – is that Pérez is wasting way too many points and letting Hamilton finish 2nd in races where Red Bull does have the advantage.

      1. In Brazil they weren’t very close at all!

        1. Sikhumbuzo Khumalo
          20th November 2021, 13:54

          Just like in Mexico and in COTA

    5. @hahostolze
      Mercedes found a step in performance over the last three races. A significant step.
      Its highly unusual for F1 teams to find that much performance in such a short lead time, especially in the second half of a season prior to a major change in the rules.
      Last time we saw such a jump in performance Ferrari was running dodgy fuel sensors…

      1. @pmccarthy_is_a_legend in Mexico? The race that Verstappen comfortably won, and where Horner complained that they only underperformed in qualifying due to Tsunoda disrupting their laps?

        Also, are Mercedes really mysteriously fast on the straights? Their end of straight speeds this year aren’t noticeably different this year compared to their performance in 2020 or 2019 – they’re generally plus or minus a few kph, but with no distinct trend in either direction.

        What is different is that, compared to their performance at those same tracks in 2020, Red Bull’s generally been slower in the speed traps this year – the RB16B has been around 3-5kph slower at the end of the straights than the 2020 RB16 and 2019 RB15 were.

        In the case of Brazil, when you look at the data there, Verstappen was recorded as peaking in top speed slightly further up the straight, and then seemed to lose a bit of speed towards the end of the straight as the MGU-H on the Honda power unit was unable to sustain its maximum power output and began harvesting energy instead. There seems to have been some very deliberate cherry picking of data by Horner to produce a rather misleading picture.

    6. Oh come off it, go watch the race weekends again and look at the stats without thinking of your favourite driver. I’d say it has been 60-40 Red Bull. Red Bull could be easily further ahead. I hope Hamilton wins the next 2 races, will make for a thrilling final race.

    7. lexusreliability?
      20th November 2021, 13:13


      Clearly your business acumen is diabolical- but go for it.

  2. Championship is over

  3. Fastest lap points this season:
    Hamilton – 5
    Verstappen – 4
    Bottas – 4
    Perez – 2
    Gasly – 1
    Ricciardo – 1
    Norris – 1

    Mercedes – 9
    Red Bull – 6
    McLaren – 2
    Alpha Tauri – 1

    Sprint Points:
    Bottas – 7
    Verstappen – 7
    Hamilton – 2
    Ricciardo – 1
    Sainz – 1

    Mercedes – 9
    Red Bull – 7
    McLaren – 1
    Ferrari – 1

    So total of the two:
    Verstappen – 11
    Bottas – 11
    Hamilton – 7
    Perez – 2
    Ricciardo – 2
    Gasly – 1
    Norris – 1
    Sainz – 1

    Mercedes – 18
    Red Bull – 12
    McLaren – 3
    Alpha Tauri – 1
    Ferrari – 1

    I noticed a graphic that showed this for Hamilton and Verstappen only (although it was wrong), so thought it might be a useful thing to show as these are points which I don’t believe should be awarded. Hopefully they won’t change the final championship positions, particularly the sprint points.

    1. There is a chance it does. But the sprints changed the outcome of three races so regardless of scored points, it already changed the championship.

    2. Verstappen had 4 fastest laps, but only 3 fastest lap points. (No point for Baku, as he retired)
      Perez had 2 fastest laps, but only 1 fastest lap point. (No point for Silverstone, as he finished 16th)
      Bottas had 4 fastest laps, but only 3 fastest lap points. (No point for Mexico, as he finished 15th)

      Fastest lap points this season:
      Hamilton – 5
      Verstappen – 3
      Bottas – 3
      Perez – 1
      Gasly – 1
      Ricciardo – 1
      Norris – 1

      Mercedes – 8
      Red Bull – 4
      McLaren – 2
      Alpha Tauri – 1

      Sprint Points:
      Bottas – 7
      Verstappen – 7
      Hamilton – 2
      Ricciardo – 1
      Sainz – 1

      Mercedes – 9
      Red Bull – 7
      McLaren – 1
      Ferrari – 1

      So total of the two:
      Verstappen – 10
      Bottas – 10
      Hamilton – 7
      Ricciardo – 2
      Perez – 1
      Gasly – 1
      Norris – 1
      Sainz – 1

      Mercedes – 17
      Red Bull – 11
      McLaren – 3
      Alpha Tauri – 1
      Ferrari – 1

      1. Yes of course, I forgot that. Thank you for the correction.

        1. Also sorry to whoever made the graphic for saying it was wrong, it was me that was wrong.

  4. I really hope Red Bull are sandbagging or this is going to go from emphatically fastest in practice to an emphatically boring race to cap off an emphatically disappointing year.

    1. I don’t think you sandbag at this point in the season. Mercedes have vastly improved the second half of this season to be the dominant car

  5. Looks like Mercedes will easily dominate the last 3 races and win the championship quite comfortably in the end

    1. ugh, first time I’ve done this, I’ve accidentally reported this comment. Sorry for this!

  6. Just so amazing max still leads lewis after 2 retirements from a win which was not his fault over a car thats half a second quicker

    1. You’re right. Thank God the FIA is helping him as much as they can.

    2. Wake up! You must have been sleeping and missed the part where the FIA changed the rules to help handicap Mercedes.

  7. Doesn’t look like RB have an answer to the Mercedes’ pace and the rear wing issue on Verstappen’s car when using DRS isn’t helping them either.
    If RB can’t solve this issue, it’s gonna be a Mercedes front row lockout for sure. Given the relatively short distance from pole to turn 1 (371 m), outdragging them at the start will be difficult.

    Once again Gasly put in great laps to beat the rest of the midfield and Perez. His deleted lap time for exceeding track limits at the final corner was only half a tenth of Verstappen’s time. That’s pretty impressive!
    The Ferrari looked a lot better today on low fuel than it did yesterday and had Leclerc not ruined his second set of Softs, he would’ve been ahead of Sainz and relatively close to Gasly.
    Alpine looked pretty strong again, which is bad news for McLaren.
    I don’t know what is wrong with McLaren. The car just doesn’t look fast around here (apart from Norris 1:23.6 yesterday). Their long runs weren’t anything special yesterday (slower than Alpine and Ferrari) and they lacked a lot of pace in FP3. Unless they ran a lot more fuel and lower power modes, they are seriously in trouble this weekend. Getting both cars into Q3 seems almost impossible for them.

  8. Can’t wait for the races to be over so we can get to the courtroom and find out who won the championships this year.

    1. Sounds like a Mercedes fan already pumped up.

      1. lexusreliability?
        20th November 2021, 13:11

        Non more so than Verstappen/Red Bull keyboard warriors I imagine.

      2. Sounds like your not getting sarcasm…

    2. Tragic truth but that make me smile!

  9. lexusreliability?
    20th November 2021, 13:11

    Ironic that the team that’s threatening a wing protest is having rear wing issues themselves. I need to look at the technical directive on the DRS oscillating like that- it’s meant to be constant.

  10. Hoping Mercedes wipe the floor with these bums from Red Bull!

    1. The boxing jargon has made its way to the F1 forums. The next comment Mercedes guys will be labelled as “Dossers” !

  11. Its over , Mercedes pace is off the charts last 2 races. Atleast when RB was ahead, the gaps weren’t this big.

    1. What is over? 1 race mercedes was fast with fresh ICE for Hamilton. Verstappen is in championship lead and this was ‘practise’. How can you jump to such a conclusion?

  12. All these comments suggesting the championship is over after a practice session. Even if Mercedes are quicker, Verstappen still has a 14-point lead in the championship! And it won’t be half-a-second in all three of the final races of the season, in fact it is very unlikely it will be half-a-second in Qatar. I’m pleased Mercedes look quicker at the moment, as it increases the likelihood of a final round showdown.

    1. @f1frog

      All these comments suggesting the championship is over after a practice session

      Hey man, it’s nothing new. People are just so traumatized by Mercedes dominance in past years that they react to a competitive championship fight like a caveman to light.

  13. So after an epic title fight, we are back to Mercedes totally dominant. Yawn. Maybe if Silverstone and Hungary didn’t happen but alas. Congrats Lewis I guess this makes you the greatest by virtue of having the most dominant machinery for the longest time. I’m checking out until 2022.

    1. Disappointing comment @brum55. Red Bull are still very much in this, they will be quick at Yas Marina and Max has a 14 point lead. Then the kind of boring and predictable Lewis ‘because he has the best car’ comment. For what it’s worth, I think this is very much in the balance, Max is not that far behind this race either. Anyway, bah humbug to your viewpoint.

    2. So Max and Lewis less than a tenth away from each other in Q1 even with Ham doing an extra lap @brum55. Championship over, etc. @hahostolze. The cars are close.

  14. Red Bull is definitely doing something with Max’s rear wing. It sometimes flaps and sometimes is stiff. This seems to be selectable. Also it doesn’t seem that Perez has the same function with his wing.

Comments are closed.