FP3 report: Hamilton struggling as Verstappen pulls away before French qualifying

19-06-2021 12:00 | Updated: 19-06-2021 12:03
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FP3 report: Hamilton struggling as Verstappen pulls away before French qualifying

Max Verstappen goes into the French Grand Prix qualifying session as the favourite after opening a 0.747-second gap over the nearest Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas. Lewis Hamilton has some work to do after finding himself down in P5 following the chassis change between the two teammates. Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez also find themselves in the mix. 

Overnight, McLaren have found improvements and look to take the best of the rest battle to Alpine. The French team remain strong whilst Aston Martin look unlikely to reach Q3 despite the podium for Sebastian Vettel last time out. 

Engine silence

With teams looking to keep a set of medium tyres spare, the opening 10 minutes of the session saw nobody leave the pits. The two Haas drivers were only two runners in the following five minutes. 

With the track cleaned up, the rest of the field trickled out of the pits. Straight away, Alpine and Fernando Alonso continued their strong form. The team competing at their home race this weekend. Esteban Ocon also found himself in the mix early on in the session. 

Qualifying foreshadow?

The big names emerged from the pits with 35 minutes remaining on the clock. Verstappen managed to get ahead of Bottas by just 0.009 seconds, similar to the second practice session on Friday. Meanwhile, Hamilton found himself nearly 0.900 seconds behind which could indicate he is still struggling following the chassis change. 

Overnight, reports suggested that Red Bull had altered their downforce settings to increase straight-line speed in sector two where they were losing out to Mercedes on Friday. The early FP3 timesheet suggests this hasn't reduced performance in sector one or three. However, Perez found himself outside the top ten at the halfway stage but posted a 1:32.238 to put himself in the top five later.  

On the second set of laps, Bottas moved ahead of Verstappen. Briefly, the Red Bull driver returned to the top but his lap time was deleted for exceeding track limits. However, oversteer pushed him wide and he seemingly lost time showcasing the Red Bull car is capable of going quicker. Verstappen then proved he had more time available and moved 0.747 seconds quicker than Bottas. 

After a quiet start to the weekend, Ferrari put themselves in the top five with a quick time from Carlos Sainz. 

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