Eifel GP: Bottas leads Hamilton, Leclerc in FP3

Valtteri Bottas set the pace for Mercedes as Formula 1 drivers finally got on-track at the Nurburgring in practice for the Eifel Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Eifel GP: Bottas leads Hamilton, Leclerc in FP3
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After rain and fog prevented any running from taking place on Friday at the Nurburgring, teams were left to condense all of their programmes into the final one-hour practice session ahead of qualifying.

The FIA had altered its protocols to ensure the sessions could go ahead even in a repeat of Friday’s weather conditions, only for bright sunshine to greet the drivers ahead of Saturday's running.

A busy session followed that saw teams spend very little time in the garage, with the initial pace being set by the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon on the medium-compound tyre.

Verstappen was able to retain his advantage at the head of the timesheets after the initial round of soft-tyre runs, only for Mercedes’ Bottas to improve with his second effect, moving one-tenth of a second clear of the field.

A final set of qualifying simulation runs saw Bottas improve his lap time by seven-tenths of a second, setting the benchmark for Verstappen and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to try and match.

But both Verstappen and Hamilton were forced to back off at the final corner on their first qualifying simulations after a spin for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi brought out yellow flags.

Hamilton managed to get in a second qualifying simulation on the softs that lifted him up to second, but was one-tenth shy of Bottas’ time of 1m26.225s.

A late surge saw Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc end the session third-fastest, having requested some changes be made to his car prior to his final runs. He ended the session within half a second of Bottas’ time.

Verstappen wound up fourth overall for Red Bull, reporting a lack of front grip throughout FP3, but finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari, who recovered from an early spin to take fifth overall.

Lando Norris finished the session sixth for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez, who was the sole Racing Point driver taking part in FP3 after teammate Lance Stroll was forced out through illness. 

Racing Point reported that Stroll was “not feeling 100%” and would sit out final practice.

A final decision on his participation in qualifying is set to be made after the session, with Nico Hulkenberg on standby for the team should Stroll be unfit for the rest of the weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo took eighth for Renault ahead of Albon, while Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 for AlphaTauri.

Esteban Ocon finished the session 11th ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz, with Kimi Raikkonen finishing 14th for Alfa Romeo.

Haas pair Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen wound up 15th and 16th respectively. Grosjean took a moment during the session to tell his engineer that it was a “beautiful track”, returning to the site of his 2013 podium for Lotus.

George Russell ended final practice 17th for Williams despite a spin at the chicane that left him sliding across the grass, albeit falling short of the wall and thus avoiding damage. Antonio Giovinazzi followed in 18th ahead of Latifi, who was the last driver to set a time in P19.

FP3 results: 

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 25 1'26.225  
2 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 27 1'26.361 0.136
3 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 25 1'26.681 0.456
4 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 24 1'26.896 0.671
5 Germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 25 1'27.038 0.813
6 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 29 1'27.167 0.942
7 Mexico Sergio Perez Racing Point 25 1'27.245 1.020
8 Australia Daniel Ricciardo Renault 23 1'27.392 1.167
9 Thailand Alex Albon Red Bull 23 1'27.449 1.224
10 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 28 1'27.528 1.303
11 France Esteban Ocon Renault 27 1'27.634 1.409
12 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri 26 1'27.795 1.570
13 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren 29 1'27.924 1.699
14 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 25 1'27.956 1.731
15 France Romain Grosjean Haas 27 1'28.115 1.890
16 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 27 1'28.293 2.068
17 United Kingdom George Russell Williams 30 1'28.343 2.118
18 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 25 1'28.370 2.145
19 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 26 1'28.941 2.716
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