Mercedes and Red Bull Inseparable in FP3

Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Ryan Ashenhurst
Contributor

Both Mercedes and Red Bull drivers had relatively smooth FP3 sessions, but Hamilton’s lack of running in FP2 definitely set him back this morning, his true pace will only materialize in qualifying – That sort of pressure will probably suit the Brit though.

Nico Rosberg topped the session with a 1.20.261s, but the Red Bull of Max Verstappen was alarmingly, only 0.002s behind the German. Ricciardo was 3rd in the sister Red Bull with 1.20.726 and Hamilton rounded out the top four with a 1.20.769.

For qualifying, Mercedes always find more pace, so it’s still likely that there’ll be a Mercedes pole, but Hamilton will be hoping his engineers can find the perfect balance in his car after little running yesterday. The most interesting aspect of the session comes in the race-runs, when cars do longer stints on the tyres in order to simulate a race stint. On these runs, the Red Bull was very close to the Silver Arrows cars and appeared to have little tyre degradation on the newly surfaced track. This was going to be Red Bull’s biggest issue heading into the weekend, but they appear to have resolved their heavy degradation on fresh tarmac problem.

Ferrari finished the session in an expected 5th for Kimi and 6th for Vettel. Raikkonen was less than a tenth slower than Hamilton, but the Reds had a quiet session and don’t look like they can threaten for the race win, the podium looks out of reach too.

Alonso assured that McLaren’s good chassis was utilized and exploited the reduced deficit that engine power is as a variable on this track. He managed 7th with a 1.21.584 and will be one to watch throughout the weekend.

Despite still being way off the points haul and heights of last season, Williams and Valtteri Bottas should still be pleased with 8th in this session, the car showing signs that it could score points this weekend with the installation of a new floor on the Finn’s car.

A top ten report of any session wouldn’t be one without the ever-present Sergio Perez, who finished 9th fasted in the Force India. He’s becoming a reliable source for points, but will need to try and eek into Q3 later today. That would boost his prospects of scoring on race day. He will be disappointed that there’s a Williams ahead on the time-sheet though.

Jolyon Palmer rounded out the top ten in the Renault, showing an impressive turn of pace at the end of the session after little running yesterday with fuel leaks. Magnussen managed 12th in the other Renault, so the team could be looking at their second chance to score points this season – If nothing goes mechanically wrong…

Seven different teams make up the top ten for FP3, the stories heading into qualifying are definitely whether Hamilton can deliver after a shaky weekend so far and can Red Bull challenge for pole?