Valtteri Bottas beat teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.041s to complete a clean sweep of practice sessions for Mercedes at the French Grand Prix as Red Bull struggled.
The Finn looked marginally more comfortable than Hamilton all session and posted a 1m30.159s to set the pace, although the championship leader’s best lap came on his second timed attempt after a mistake at Turn 6. Bottas had also been quickest in FP2, while there was less than 0.1s between the two Mercedes drivers in first practice as they look set for a close battle in qualifying.
The Ferrari pair were similarly closely matched — 0.028s separating Charles Leclerc in third from Sebastian Vettel in fourth — and the 0.4s deficit to Mercedes all came in the final sector. For much of the lap, Ferrari looks a real threat but with no straights to speak of in sector three, it loses out through the corners.
Ferrari at least looks comfortable on the second row with Red Bull struggling for pace in FP3, with a battle for the third row looking likely against McLaren and Renault. Max Verstappen was fifth fastest and struggling with the handling of his car as he twice went wide at the end of the first sector. Verstappen ended up less than 0.1s clear of Pierre Gasly, but they were both 1.4s off the pace set by Mercedes.
Lando Norris in seventh served notice of McLaren’s threat, as he was 0.055s off Gasly after a strong set of practice sessions for the team that currently sits fourth in the constructors’ championship, while Daniel Ricciardo secured eighth and was 0.15s further back.
Carlos Sainz and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top 10 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, and although the Renaults set their times later in the session it suggests Red Bull will be looking over its shoulder in Q3 rather than targeting the top two teams.
Raikkonen looks most likely to disrupt the top five teams in qualifying but also had an off-track moment early in FP3 as he lost the rear at Turn 6 and ran wide at a corner that is proving tricky for drivers this weekend.
The session was largely free of incidents but George Russell suffered a reliability concern for Williams that cost him plenty of running. Russell reported a loss of power on his third lap of the day and limped back to the pits, with the rookie failing to rejoin the action.