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RECAP: Bottas quickest in FP3 ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton secured the top two positions in FP3, Max Verstappen trailing a few tenths behind.

FP3 commenced under overcast conditions at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit.

The session was red-flagged immediately as Nikita Mazepin’s car sputtered to a stop after exiting the pit lane. The Russian reported the engine “did sound different” over the radio as soon as he departed the garage. The Haas driver lost more practice time around Losail after missing out on Friday. The red flag lasted only a few minutes as Haas mechanics successfully hauled the stricken car back into the pits.

Esteban Ocon was the first driver to set a lap and remained on top after the first 15 minutes of the session. The Frenchman clocked a 1:24.864 lap time on medium tires, with Lando Norris 8 tenths of a second behind.

The Mercedes pair ventured onto the circuit with soft tires equipped. Valtteri Bottas was the first Mercedes to set a lap in FP3 which was half a second quicker than Ocon’s first lap. Lewis Hamilton snatched the first position with a 1:23.950.

Sergio Perez’s first run on soft tires was ruined at the penultimate corner when his car flung out wide at the left-hander. The Mexican could only manage P6.

Fernando Alonso briefly held the top spot on the leaderboard before a confident Bottas went half a second quicker. Hamilton then beat this lap by 2 tenths, setting a target time of 1:23.152 for his rivals.

Max Verstappen’s first outing this session was close to the halfway mark, but the current championship leader jumped on the pace straight away. He managed to inch ahead of Hamilton by 0.031 seconds on his first flying lap.

Mercedes reclaimed the top two positions of the timing sheets with under 30 minutes remaining in FP3. Hamilton went almost 5 tenths quicker than Verstappen’s first lap before Bottas narrowly jumped ahead of the Briton with a 1:22.573. Verstappen’s attempt to match the Mercedes was not quite quick enough as he remained in 3rd.

With around 20 minutes to go in the session, Max Verstappen sat stuck in the garage with more modifications made to his rear wing’s DRS actuator.

Meanwhile, Perez managed to get within 3 tenths of Bottas’ fastest lap. Subsequently, Hamilton raised the target lap to a 1:22.388 and pipped his teammate by a couple of tenths.

While the fastest laps continued to change, Charles Leclerc lost control applying the power to his Ferrari and rotated at turn 3. Fortunately, the Monegasque managed not to cause too much damage to the tires.

The time remaining dipped below 10 minutes and the driver on top continued to vary. Bottas managed to edge ahead of Hamilton again. However, Verstappen was back on track with fresh soft tires. Frustratingly for him, the Dutchman failed to go quicker than the Mercedes duo and trailed 3 tenths behind.

Bottas ended the session quickest once again, dominating with his teammate and championship contender Hamilton.

The results of the Qatar GP FP3:

1Valtteri BottasMercedes1:22.310
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes+0.078
3Max VerstappenRed Bull+0.341
4Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri+0.525
5Sergio PerezRed Bull+0.536
6Carlos SainzFerrari+0.738
7Fernando AlonsoAlpine+0.876
8Esteban OconAlpine+0.899
9Charles LeclercFerrari+0.966
10Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri+1.257
11Daniel RicciardoMcLaren+1.401
12Sebastian VettelAston Martin+1.574
13Lando NorrisMcLaren+1.585
14George RussellWilliams+1.613
15Lance StrollAston Martin+1.844
16Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo+1.936
17Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo+1.978
18Nicholas LatifiWilliams+2.189
19Mick SchumacherHaas+2.370
20Nikita MazepinHaasNo time
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