Max Verstappen completed a clean sweep by topping the final practice session for the Canadian Grand Prix as just 0.051s separated the top three cars.
Having been quickest in both sessions on Friday, Verstappen continued his strong weekend by posting a 1m11.599s to again set the pace in the final hour on Saturday morning. With just 14 laps to his name Verstappen completed less than half the mileage of teammate Daniel Ricciardo — making up for time lost in FP2 — but that appeared to be a sign of his comfort in the car.
While it was Verstappen who was again fastest, the gap to Ferrari was extremely small, with Sebastian Vettel 0.049s adrift in second place. Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were closely matched throughout the session, with the Finn ending up 0.002s slower.
That performance bodes well for qualifying for Ferrari — when it can traditionally turn up its power unit to a greater extent than the Renault — while Mercedes is also within striking distance as Lewis Hamilton was only 0.107s slower than Verstappen in fourth place.
The Mercedes performance was somewhat surprising given its potential on Friday, having not used the hypersoft in FP1 or FP2. Finally running the softest compound in final practice, Hamilton only found 0.6s from the additional grip when Pirelli estimates the hypersoft to offer a gain of over a second.
Ricciardo was fifth but over half a second off his teammate’s pace, edging out Valtteri Bottas by 0.1s as the top three teams once again enjoyed a clear advantage over the extremely competitive midfield despite such a short lap.
With lap times barely over 70 seconds, Sergio Perez in seventh was almost 0.7s adrift of Bottas and 1.3s away from Verstappen, but it is the train of cars behind him that will be of more interest. From the leading Force India down to Brendon Hartley in 12th — a group also including Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean, Stoffel Vandoorne and Esteban Ocon — the gap was just 0.173s.
It wasn’t a smooth session for all the drivers in that group, however, as Vandoorne locked up approaching Turn 3 and had to take to the escape road. With little room to spin the car round, Vandoorne had to carry out a long and slow maneuver to finally return to the track.
Hartley similarly had a number of off-track moments, skipping the final chicane when blocked by a slower car and then running wide at Turn 1 and cutting the second corner. Although those issues will be of little concern at Toro Rosso, Haas may be more worried by Grosjean’s radio message toward the end of the session that he had “strange engine behavior” when returning to the pits.