Leclerc leads Ferrari clean sweep of Bahrain practice

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Leclerc leads Ferrari clean sweep of Bahrain practice

Formula 1

Leclerc leads Ferrari clean sweep of Bahrain practice


Ferrari completed a clean sweep of the three practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix as Charles Leclerc topped FP3.

Fresh from finishing first and second in both of Friday’s sessions, Ferrari was again comfortably clear of the rest of the field in Saturday’s final session, with Leclerc posting a 1m29.569s. That left him 0.169s clear of teammate Sebastian Vettel, with Leclerc boasting the fastest three sectors in the session for good measure.

Lewis Hamilton was third quickest for Mercedes but over a three quarters of a second slower than Leclerc, despite Ferrari setting its times earlier in the session. The track was improving as the session went on, with overnight rain reducing the overall grip level.

The main caveats are the timing of the session — with qualifying and the race taking place after sunset — and the fact the team had been keen to play down its performance on Friday, as team principal Mattia Binotto said it had been running more aggressive engine modes than its rivals. Ferrari has also used more of the softer compound tires so far than the likes of Mercedes, but has shown it has the pace to advance to Q3 on the medium that would open up better race strategies.

Regardless, Ferrari’s advantage has been significant all weekend so far, with Melbourne winner Valtteri Bottas only fourth quickest, 0.055s slower than his teammate as Mercedes was nearly half a second clear of the rest of the field.

The tightly packed midfield looks set to provide a thrilling qualifying battle, with Romain Grosjean in fifth for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault. It was four different teams from fifth to eighth, with Lando Norris in the McLaren edging out Max Verstappen as Red Bull struggled in FP3.

The gap from Grosjean in fifth to Carlos Sainz in ninth place was just 0.147s, with Norris, Verstappen and Sainz separated by only 0.01s.

Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top 10 for Toro Rosso as Pierre Gasly was only 12th in the second Red Bull, with the pair split by Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen completed the joint-highest number of laps alongside teammate Antonio Giovinazzi as both drivers managed 21 laps in the hour-long final session.

There were issues for Racing Point as Sergio Perez could only compete nine laps and ended up one place behind teammate Lance Stroll in 15th, but the pair were ahead of Daniel Ricciardo who has struggled so far this weekend and was 0.7s slower than Hulkenberg.