Vettel hits the front in Austria FP3, Verstappen hits trouble

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Vettel hits the front in Austria FP3, Verstappen hits trouble

Formula 1

Vettel hits the front in Austria FP3, Verstappen hits trouble

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time of the final practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix as Max Verstappen stopped with a power unit issue.

After Mercedes topped both of the sessions on Friday, Vettel and Ferrari made what is becoming a regular step forward on Saturday to lead the standings with a 1m04.070s, beating last year’s pole position time in the process. It was extremely close between the two main title contenders in FP3, with Lewis Hamilton just 0.029s slower than Vettel in second place.

Valtteri Bottas again remained close to his teammate in third, 0.134s adrift of Vettel’s time as it looked like a straight fight between Mercedes and Ferrari for pole position later on Saturday.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth despite a trip through the gravel at Turn 7, but he was 0.4s off the pace of his teammate and a little bit in no-mans land with Verstappen almost three quarters of a second behind Vettel in fifth.

Verstappen had an off-track moment halfway through the session when he ran wide at Turn 4 — the same corner where he suffered a spin on Friday — but this time managed to keep control of the car and recovered using an escape road. The same corner proved to be the scene of a greater problem later on, with Verstappen reporting his engine shut off as he again ran wide after losing power steering, and had to stop the car immediately.

Red Bull will investigate the issue in the two hours before qualifying, but also has work to do to get on terms with the top two teams as Daniel Ricciardo was sixth fastest on a 1m04.891s, just 0.025s clear of Romain Grosjean’s Haas.

The two Haas cars led the midfield with Kevin Magnussen in eighth, ahead of Carlos Sainz in ninth and Charles Leclerc in 10th place. Leclerc was another driver to hit trouble, however, as he radioed in “Problem, problem, problem” late in the session and stopped his car on the straight after Turn 1, saying, “I need to stop, I think there’s something wrong with the engine.”

There were more victims of the exit curbs at the Red Bull Ring during final practice, too, with Brendon Hartley breaking his front wing after running slightly wide at Turn 9. Of more pain for Hartley was the fact that it was one of Toro Rosso’s new front wings after an update introduced this weekend, giving the team little time to repair it before qualifying.

As well as Hartley, Stoffel Vandoorne suffered the exact same issue at the same corner, although the damage to his car was less severe as part of the endplate dropped and was dragging on the track.

-Chris Medland

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