A clear sky but mild temperatures awaited the cars for the Free Practice session 3 at the COTA. The wind was still present even for today and may have affected the performances: the straight zone was in fact suffering tailwind phenomenon.
Lando Norris is the first driver to figure out a practice start, followed by Magnussen, Kvyat, Albon and Grosjean getting on the track.
A funny check radio for Norris right at the first out lap: the good mod is always surrounding the rookie Briton in his maiden season at McLaren.
No activity from all the teams in the first minutes of the session: Mercedes was even weighting the cars, while the Ferrari drivers were slowly getting into their seats.
Different configurations between Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in the little winglets at the back of the front suspension.
With less than 50 minutes to the end is Romain Grosjean hitting the track again: a difficult end of Friday for the French who gave much more work to his mechanics with the crash in the twisty section. Bottas and Kubica made their debut too of the day.
Charles Leclerc was out of the track for an engine related issue when 45 minutes still to go: VSC was deployed and smoke came from the back of the car. The place of the retirement wasn’t so far from the pit entry: a clear sign of the gravity of the problem. Teams’ box already at work during the session: problem seemed to be located at the back of the engine, within the turbo pack.
The first interesting time was set by Sebastian Vettel: 1’34”733 for the German. Bottas then claimed the lead with 1/10 better, with Hamilton 2 tenths off the peak. The Ferrari driver will claim again the top slot with only 8/100 on the Finnish.
With the only Ferrari left using old tyres, the session mood wasn’t very ‘energetic’ at half an hour at disposal, being the last fine-tuning occasion before afternoon qualifying. However, Max Verstappen claimed the second position at the expenses of the Silver Arrows tandem.
Last time deleted for Vettel at Turn 19: a very challenging bend for the stewards’ decisions and drivers’ car control.
Little activity on track with 20 minutes left: Bottas, Albon, Stroll and Ricciardo were completing laps.
Bottas caught the lead at a quarter of hour left with 1’33”904, giving almost 3/10 to Verstappen, 5/10 to Vettel, 7/10 to Albon and Hamilton.
Vettel re-claims the lead getting his car under the 1’34” wall: the first two sectors were the best among the field, with the last being the kingdom of Verstappen.
Norris claimed the third position with only 2 tenths from the top, while Bottas having a close call with a Red Bull in the stadium section.
Verstappen finally held the lead with 2 tenths on Vettel and more than half a second over Hamilton and Bottas.
In the final glimpses of the session Albon reached the 5th position between the two Mercedes; here the final classification: