As he did in both Friday sessions, Valtteri Bottas led the way in Free Practice 3 sessions for Mercedes at Mugello ahead of qualifying for the Tuscan Grand Prix.
Bottas lowered the benchmark in third practice to 1m16.530s with a late run on soft tires to pip Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by 0.017s, with teammate Lewis Hamilton 0.066s further back.
Keeping the soft tire alive long enough for a complete flying lap in qualifying is shaping as a key differentiator in the battle for pole. Both Mercedes drivers struggled to keep their soft tires alive for the duration, with neither able to set a purple sector at the final split on their fastest lap. Instead, the Dutchman separated the black cars with the bulk of his time made up in the final part of the lap.
Lance Stroll was fourth for Racing Point, but the pink car was almost 0.6s slower than Bottas’s benchmark.
Pierre Gasly followed for AlphaTauri, ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Racing Point machine, though the Mexican — who was more than 0.2s slower than his teammate — lacked the bargeboard upgrades installed on the sister car.
Charles Leclerc was the fastest Ferrari car in seventh, beating Red Bull Racing’s Alex Albon by half a tenth. The Thai driver, who complained of “aggressive misfiring” in his Honda power unit early in the session, was almost a full second slower than teammate Verstappen in second, albeit after using the soft tire for only one lap at the very end of the hour.
Daniil Kvyat was ninth quickest for Toro Rosso ahead of Haas driver Romain Grosjean.
In a reversal of midfield form, Renault’s Esteban Ocon headed McLaren’s Carlos Sainz outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th. McLaren was working hard to address understeer during the session, while Renault reported a lighter rear end as its chief concern.
Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were 13th and 14th ahead of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas machine.
Nicholas Latifi was 15th ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, though Vettel didn’t set a timed lap on the soft tire.
Lando Norris was 19th for McLaren ahead of George Russell, who didn’t set a time after suffering a brake by wire failure.