Qatar GP: Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 in final practice

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton took a 1-2 for Mercedes in third and final practice for Formula 1's Qatar Grand Prix, putting three tenths on Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

Qatar GP: Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 in final practice
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The warm afternoon session got off to a false start, being immediately red-flagged for Nikita Mazepin's Haas coming to a halt on pit exit. It led to the Russian remaining in the garage after also sitting out FP2.

With a five-minute delay the lights sprang to green again for Qatar's final practice session ahead of Saturday night qualifying.

Given the daytime conditions being less representative for qualifying and the race than Friday night's FP2 session, third free practice got off to a slow start but the Losail circuit still saw plenty of running on F1's first-ever weekend in Qatar.

After a quiet opening spell Alpine's Esteban Ocon set a first hot lap of 1m24.864s, which he soon brought down to a 1m24.580s on Pirelli's softs.

Mercedes' Bottas quickly dispatched the Frenchman with a 1m24.019s with his soft-shod Mercedes.

Teammate Hamilton took one tenth out of Bottas' time to go top with a 1m23.950s on the same compound.

Alpine's Fernando Alonso briefly took over top spot before being demoted by Bottas and then Hamilton, who lowered the benchmark to a 1m23.152s on softs.

Verstappen made a traditionally late start to his FP3 running, joining just before halftime to go straight to the top of the leaderboard with a 1m23.121s, a mere 0.031s quicker than his title rival.

Verstappen appeared to gain the edge in the high downforce Turn 12/13 combination, which Mercedes manage to erase soon after.

Hamilton struck back with his next effort, but Bottas went even quicker to restore a Mercedes 1-2, the Finn setting a time of 1m22.573s as all leading drivers stuck to Pirelli's softest compound.

After a typical mid-session lull the action ramped up again in the final 20 minutes, with Bottas and Hamilton both taking a 0.2s bite out of their best laptimes to secure a Mercedes 1-2.

The world champions stayed on top ahead Verstappen in a strong, if meaningless, showing for the Silver Arrows.

Gasly split the Red Bulls by taking fourth ahead of Sergio Perez.

Sainz was sixth for Ferrari ahead of Gasly, followed by Alpine duo Alonso and Ocon, and his teammate Charles Leclerc.

Yuki Tsunoda completed the top 10 for AlphaTauri, ahead of McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo in 11th.

Sebastian Vettel was 12th for Aston Martin, followed by the second McLaren of Lando Norris and Williams' George Russell.

Lance Stroll followed in 15th ahead of Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, as well as Williams man Nicholas Latifi.

Mick Schumacher set the 19th and slowest time in the Haas, teammate Mazepin remaining in the garage after his early stall.

Race control took a more relaxed approach to track limits from FP3 onwards, focusing solely on Turns 2, 7 and 16, AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly losing his fastest lap for going wide out of the final corner.

Further on-track incidents were limited to innocuous spins for Gasly, Leclerc and Schumacher.

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap
1 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 17 1'22.310  
2 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 16 1'22.388 0.078
3 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 10 1'22.651 0.341
4 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 17 1'22.835 0.525
5 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 14 1'22.846 0.536
6 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 17 1'23.048 0.738
7 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine 13 1'23.186 0.876
8 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 18 1'23.209 0.899
9 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 17 1'23.276 0.966
10 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 20 1'23.567 1.257
11 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 14 1'23.711 1.401
12 Germany Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 17 1'23.884 1.574
13 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 16 1'23.895 1.585
14 United Kingdom George Russell Williams 17 1'23.923 1.613
15 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 17 1'24.154 1.844
16 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 19 1'24.246 1.936
17 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 17 1'24.288 1.978
18 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 15 1'24.499 2.189
19 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas 20 1'24.680 2.370
20 Russian Federation Nikita Mazepin Haas 1    
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