Bottas tops third French GP practice as rain limits running

Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG

Bottas tops third French GP practice as rain limits running

Formula 1

Bottas tops third French GP practice as rain limits running

Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time of a rain-hit final practice session for the French Grand Prix that saw very little running at Paul Ricard.

While a much bigger crowd was in place following traffic chaos for fans on Friday, they saw no more than five laps by any one car as heavy rain hit the circuit just five minutes into FP3. Dark clouds had appeared just before the green light, leading to a busy start to the session as teams tried to fit in some dry running, but rain soon forced everyone back to the pits.

In the few minutes of slick tire running that was possible, Bottas — who missed much of FP2 due to a water leak — completed just three laps but posted a 1m33.666s to lead Carlos Sainz in the Renault by 1.2s. After Friday’s issue for Bottas, Mercedes confirmed that it had traced the root cause overnight and replaced the offending part, with no further problems expected.

Charles Leclerc was just 0.1s slower than Sainz in third place, and also took to the track in the closing moments on full wet tires to assess conditions. Leclerc was one of a few drivers to run the full wets, with huge amounts of spray being thrown up due to the standing water.

Fernando Alonso was fourth ahead of Sebastian Vettel in fifth, but the championship leader was three seconds off the pace in a sign of how little can be read into the times as a result of the conditions. Alonso was another driver to head out on wet tires, with teams having limited sets of intermediates available and a wet qualifying and race an increasing possibility.

Both Williams and Toro Rosso drivers completed a number of laps in the wet, with Brendon Hartley back on track after stopping with a power unit issue in FP2 but not setting a time. That issue has caused Honda to give Hartley a new power unit that results in him having to start from the back of the grid on Sunday.

Aside from Hartley, the other drivers not to set a time in the final session were the Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, along with Nico Hulkenberg and Max Verstappen.

-Chris Medland

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