Max Verstappen stayed on top during final practice for the Mexican Grand Prix to lead every single practice session in Mexico City, however rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton closed the gap to the Dutchman, whilst Valtteri Bottas endured some concerning reliability problems which could prove critical for rest of the weekend.
Max Verstappen’s fastest time of the session was a 1.16.284s, which gave him a 0.254s advantage over his nearest rival Lewis Hamilton, whilst Sebastian Vettel was less than a tenth further back.
Valtteri Bottas was faced with a hydraulic problem on his Mercedes, which could force the Mercedes driver to take power unit change penalties for Mexican Grand Prix.
The first half of FP3 was faced with a damp track, hence no times were registered for the opening half an hour. However, the final 20 minutes saw a great deal of on-track action, ending with Verstappen leading the opposition, despite significantly different conditions.
Story of the session
As final practice got underway for the Mexican Grand Prix, the temperature had substantially dropped from FP2 following the overnight rain, which left team with lot of work to do in order to establish an ideal race setup and preferred tyre choices.
Following the rain showers, teams and drivers were reluctant to run initially, with a large number of wet patches throughout the track.
Just over the half way point, the first time of the session was posted by Fernando Alonso. He took on hyper-soft tyres on the quickly drying track, as the Spaniard registered a 1.21.213 as his first lap time, then pitted on the next lap.
Like yesterday, Ferrari were first of the front-runners to take to circuit. Kimi Raikkonen was first to take to circuit. The Finn set a first lap time of a 1.20.785s, which was just 0.428s faster than Alonso’s first lap of the session. Vandoorne soon beat Raikkonen’s time with a 1.20.348s, which gave the Belgian a 0.437s advantage at the top of the time sheets.
As the drivers registered faster lap-times, Leclerc soon went fastest with a 1.18.952s, who got himself 0.061s clear of Raikkonen. The Mercedes drivers soon got their first laps in, as Bottas went straight tot the top of the time-sheets with a 1.18.839. That was until Leclerc extended his advantage at the top with a 1.18.433s, putting his a full four tenths clear of the Mercedes driver.
Vettel was next to register his first lap, and set the fastest lap with a 1.17.836, despite various lock-ups and twitches throughout the lap. However, more pressing, following Mercedes’ overheating engine yesterday, Bottas stopped at the stadium section with his race engine, with a suspected hydraulic problem. This triggered a virtual safety car, but Verstappen went slower than Vettel following his dominant Friday – although the gap was just 0.082s.
As the track improved, Leclerc set a stalking lap of a 1.17.059s, and set himself 0.777s clear of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Meanwhile, Hamilton could only manage second fastest and 0.6 adrift of Leclerc’s Sauber.
On his latest lap, even current Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen could not pip Charles Leclerc off top stop, and the Monegasque still held a significant 0.3s advantage. However, yesterday’s pace-setter Max Verstappen could beat Leclerc, as the Dutch driver went to the top of the time-sheets with a 1.16.385s, with Hamilton going second and just 0.1s slower. Meanwhile, on Vettel’s lap, he could only go third fastest, however endured a lock-up on his way.