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Mercedes offer ray of hope in final practice but Verstappen the man to beat

Mercedes offer ray of hope in final practice but Verstappen the man to beat

F1 News

Mercedes offer ray of hope in final practice but Verstappen the man to beat

Mercedes offer ray of hope in final practice but Verstappen the man to beat

Mercedes finally offered up a ray of hope it may be competitive in Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix but it was still Max Verstappen who suggested he will claim pole position.

Across the final test in Bahrain and throughout the first two practice sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit, Mercedes suggested it was in dire straights due to the violent nature of the porpoising of its W13.

Even Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said the car was "aggressive", leaving all at Mercedes wringing their hands with worry as to how to find a cure.

Throughout the final hour of running ahead of qualifying, it was evident there was considerably less bouncing, particularly along the main start-finish street where on-board footage with Lewis Hamilton on Friday showed his head bobbing significantly.

By the conclusion of F1's winter 'war' ahead of the first true test of the pace of all the cars, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and sixth quickest.

F1 champion Verstappen, though, appears the man to beat as he topped the timing screen with a lap of one minute 32.544secs.

The Red Bull driver finished 0.096s ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, virtually mirroring the gap and performance of the two drivers in Friday practice.

There was a moment of consternation for Leclerc at one point as he went sliding off the track at turn 11 and into a gravel trap but he managed to extricate himself ahead of clinching the second best time.

Sergio Perez made it a Red Bull one-three, with the Mexican a quarter of a second back followed by Russell, whose car appeared more affected by the porpoising than that of Hamilton.

The seven-time champion was six-tenths of a second back on Verstappen and just behind the fifth quickest in Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

It means the 'big three' teams in Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari look set to battle it for the top three rows on the grid.

Behind the top six, Haas' resurgence appears real as Kevin Magnussen was seventh on the timesheet ahead of Alfa Romeo duo Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou as that team has also seemingly made considerable strides.

Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10, 1.5s adrift, with team-mate for this weekend in Nico Hulkenberg - due to Sebastian Vettel being sidelined with Covid - 12th fastest, the duo sandwiching McLaren's Lando Norris.

The Briton's team-mate in Daniel Ricciardo again missed some track time as the water cooling issue that blighted his second practice was not cured until several minutes into FP3.

Ricciardo finished 15th quickest, with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly and Haas driver Mick Schumacher ahead of him.

Williams' Nicholas Latifi was last of the 19 drivers that set a time due to Yuki Tsunoda failing to make it out of the garage following technical issues with his AlphaTauri.

Bahrain Grand Prix final practice results

1. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] 1:32.544s

2. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] 1:32.640

3. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] 1:32.791

4. George Russell [Mercedes] 1:32.935

5. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] 1:33.053

6. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] 1:33.121

7. Kevin Magnussen [Haas] 1:33.437

8. Valtteri Bottas [Alfa Romeo] 1:33.733

9. Guanyu Zhou [Alfa Romeo] 1:33.880

10. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] 1:33.920

11. Lando Norris [McLaren] 1:33.955

12. Nico Hulkenberg [Aston Martin] 1:33.971

13. Pierre Gasly [AlphaTauri] 1:34.176

14. Mick Schumacher [Haas] 1:34.295

15. Daniel Ricciardo [McLaren] 1:34.378

16. Fernando Alonso [Alpine] 1:34.628

17. Alexander Albon [Williams] 1:34.868

18. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] 1:34.957

19. Nicholas Latifi [Williams] 1:35.667

20. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] No time

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