French GP: Max Verstappen the fastest in practice 3 before qualifying for Paul Ricard

French GP: Max Verstappen the fastest in practice 3 before qualifying for Paul Ricard

Max Verstappen was in a league of his own during practice 3 of the French GP; the world championship leader was comfortably clear of the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc; watch French GP qualifying live on Sky Sports F1 from 2.35pm on Saturday

Last update: 07/23/22 2:25 p.m.

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Anthony Davidson was at the SkyPad to take a closer look at Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc and their line speeds

Anthony Davidson was at the SkyPad to take a closer look at Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc and their line speeds

Max Verstappen produced a dominant display in final practice at the French GP to edge past Ferrari and establish Red Bull as favorites for qualifying at Circuit Paul Ricard.

In a remarkable display of speed from the world championship leader, Verstappen topped the time sheet for much of the session on the slower medium tyre, before restoring his lead when switching to the softs in the closing stages.

The Dutchman’s time of 1:32.272 left him 0.354s ahead of Carlos Sainz in second, with the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc three tenths clearer in third.

Lewis Hamilton beat second-placed Red Bull Sergio Perez to fourth, with Mercedes team-mate George Russell fifth, but each of the trios was a close second behind Verstappen.

Red Bull’s hopes of ending a two-game winning streak for Ferrari have been given a further boost in Test 3 as it has been confirmed that Sainz will start from the back of the grid in Sunday’s race after taking a full load of new engine parts.

Leclerc suffers a dramatic high-speed spin and Carlos Sainz runs wide in their Ferraris during P3 of the French GP

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Leclerc suffers a dramatic high-speed spin and Carlos Sainz runs wide in their Ferraris during P3 of the French GP

Leclerc suffers a dramatic high-speed spin and Carlos Sainz runs wide in their Ferraris during P3 of the French GP

The only consolation for Sainz was that he might not have been at the very back of the grid, with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen facing the same penalty.

Fernando Alonso was best of the rest in seventh for Alpine, while Alex Albon led an encouraging display from Williams to finish eighth, with teammate Nicholas Latifi 12th.

Lando Norris’ McLaren and Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri completed the top 10, while there were worries about Sebastian Vettel finishing last after finishing his first session after damaging his Aston Martin.

‘Red Bull could be unstoppable’

Verstappen’s dominance in the third practice session came as a bit of a surprise after Ferrari topped the timesheet in both sessions on Friday, particularly after the reigning world champion admitted the team had ” work to do” after being late in FP2.

However, the Red Bulls were straight on track at the start of Saturday’s session, and Verstappen immediately showed major improvement.

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No other car, with many of them on soft tyres, could initially approach the time he put on medium tyres, with Sainz eventually overtaking his effort as the session entered its final third.

However, when Red Bull put soft tires on Verstappen’s car, he immediately catapulted comfortably clear of the Spaniard once again.

Verstappen was in imperious form in third practice

Verstappen was in imperious form in third practice

The performance was made all the more worrying for Ferrari by the fact that Red Bull had appeared to have the strongest long-term pace in Friday’s simulations, although it’s possible the Italian team may have adjusted their setup. in an attempt to lean towards Sunday’s performance.

Leclerc’s win in Austria two weeks ago, which followed Sainz’s victory at Silvertone, saw the Monegasque reduce Verstappen’s lead in the world championship to 38 points, but this latest evidence suggests Red Bull has the pace to halt Ferrari’s momentum.

Nico Rosberg looks back on a title chase

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Nico Rosberg looks back on an “exciting” title race so far and feels Ferrari are still showing their advantage and challenging Red Bull for points.

Nico Rosberg looks back on an “exciting” title race so far and feels Ferrari are still showing their advantage and challenging Red Bull for points.

Sky Sports F1’s Paul Di Resta said: “If Red Bull have been able to engineer and maintain the speed they had yesterday in the long stints and continue to improve in the short term, then they are in somehow unstoppable.

“But you never have this year, it’s ups and downs, ups and downs.”

Mercedes stays adrift after wing experience

Mercedes, which disappointed on Friday to start the weekend hoping to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari, started the session with eye-catching alternate setups for Hamilton and Russell, who had very different rear fenders.

Hamilton was designed to provide more downforce and cornering speed, but that would potentially cost him straight-line speed.

Lewis Hamilton finished fourth in the third practice session

Lewis Hamilton finished fourth in the third practice session

Early results were concerning as Hamilton expressed surprise at being 1.7 seconds behind Verstappen at the start of the session, while Russell found himself with a similar deficit despite the difference between their setups.

However, after several returns to the garage to fine-tune his setup, Hamilton was able to set a relatively competitive time, passing Perez’s second Red Bull and staying within striking distance of Leclerc in third.

The fact that Mercedes has generally had a better race than qualifying pace this season may give the Silver Arrows hope that they can extend a run of four podiums, especially with Sainz starting from the back.


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