FP3 Report: Mercedes struggle and Verstappen crashes as Gasly tops session

05-06-2021 11:00
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FP3 Report: Mercedes struggle and Verstappen crashes as Gasly tops session

During the third and final practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Mercedes struggles continued despite making changes to their set-up. But whilst Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas struggled, Max Verstappen gave his pit crew a headache after a crash at turn 15. Pierre Gasly topped FP3 with a 1:42.251. 

The third practice session revealled no definitive answers on who is quickest or in the best place for qualifying on Saturday afternoon. The Mercedes car struggled, but Lewis Hamilton climbed the leaderboard at the end of the session to finish P3. But the British driver had a tow from Perez which could perhaps orchastrate plans for qualifiyng. Without a tow, Bottas finished 13th fastest. 

Everything was running smoothly for Red Bull, until Verstappen crashed at turn 15. Ferrari seem to be strong once again around a street circuit. But it was the AlphaTauri driver who managed to secure P1. 

Rear wing change

All the off-track talk over the last couple of weeks has been about the flexible rear wing. But that aside, Mercedes opted to change their rear wing ahead of the third practice session in the hunt for more downforce and improved performance compared to FP2. Hamilton and Bottas will also be running with a new power unit. 

Mercedes waited for the likes of Haas and Alpine to clean the street circuit. Nikita Mazepin reported some dust from overnight wind. After a quiet opening 10 minutes, the front-runners emerged. Small mistakes occured for Verstappen and Bottas as they caused some brief yellow flags. 

AlphaTauri look strong

After 20 minutes, Yuki Tsunoda sat at the top of the leadboard. He was then joined by Pierre Gasly, who went a quarter of a second faster. These runs were completed on the soft tyres, whilst most others used the mediums or hard compounds. 

At this stage, most drivers were reporting a lack of grip. Once again, the two Mercedes drivers were struggling to touch the top of the timesheets, with both of them sitting around the midtable point. 

Despite overnight changes, the Mercedes car looked difficult to control in the streets of Baku. Both Hamilton and Bottas were making adjustments to the steering wheel midcorner. 

But Max Verstappen...

Whilst Mercedes were struggling, Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen made perhaps a crucial mistake of his own. The Dutchman slid off the track at turn 15 and hit the barrier. The trackrod was broken and Verstappen couldn't reverse out which caused the red flags. 

During the break Mercedes made adjustments to their cars, but Bottas quickly reported on the radio that the changes made no difference to the performance. Leclerc was on a qualifying simulation run but his lap was hampered by yellow flags. Second time around he posted a 1:42.778, only to beaten by Perez a lap later. Gasly then moved quickest with a 1:42.251. 

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