Max Verstappen topped final practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of Charles Leclerc in a difficult-to-read session.
The Dutchman was just 0.096s quicker than Leclerc, though both drivers dropped time on their final soft-tire runs. Verstappen locked up at the first turn and opted to abandon the lap for a second attempt, while Leclerc said he was missing performance in the final sector.
Leclerc appeared to be closer to the limit in his Ferrari generally, having spun off the track at turn 11 as he tried to power over the curbs. The gravel trap saved him from a crash with the barriers by feet.
Sergio Perez, having been on a different practice program on Friday, closed the gap to his teammate, lapping within 0.247s of the headline time for third in the order.
But George Russell and Lewis Hamilton in fourth and sixth grabbed attention for the composure of their Mercedes cars relative to yesterday.
Hamilton’s first attempt at a flying lap was notable for its lack of porpoising down the straights and a purple first sector, which rocketed him to the top of the time sheet earlier in the session. Russell then struck a purple final sector – which he held to the end of the hour – to put himself in the mix.
Russell ended the afternoon session 0.391s off the pace, while Hamilton slipped behind Carlos Sainz to lap 0.577s down on the benchmark.
FP3 was run in unrepresentative daylight conditions, with track temperatures markedly warmer than they will be for qualifying and the race after sunset, but the Mercedes car was notably better behaved today compared to yesterday, even if the results aren’t definitive.
Kevin Magnussen kept hopes high at Haas that the team is on the brink of a midfield resurgence, taking his car to seventh and 0.893s off the pace. He beat similarly impressive Alfa Romeo teammates Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu by 0.3s and 0.5s respectively.
Lance Stroll improved late to slot his Aston Martin into the top 10 ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, who was 1.4s slower than Verstappen as his team’s underwhelming start to the weekend continued.
Sebastian Vettel substitute Nico Hulkenberg slotted into 12th ahead of Pierre Gasly and Mick Schumacher, with Daniel Ricciardo in 15th.
Ricciardo’s McLaren was confined to its garage for almost 20 minutes at the start of the session for repairs to the water leak that took him out of FP2 yesterday, his mechanics having chosen to draw out repairs rather than break curfew overnight.
Alpine and Williams split the bottom of the time sheet, with Fernando Alonso leading Alex Albon, Esteban Ocon, and Nicholas Latifi.
Yuki Tsunoda was 20th without a lap after his car developed a hydraulic problem as he attempted to leave his garage for an installation lap.