Hamilton edges Verstappen in final Styrian GP practice

Lewis Hamilton took over from Max Verstappen to lead the Dutchman in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Styrian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver enjoyed a 0.204s advantage over his Red Bull rival, with the front-runners teammates’ Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez completing the top four.

AlphaTauri enjoyed another strong workout with Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly clocking in respectively P5 and P6.

    2021 Styrian Grand Prix Free Practice 3 – Results

Threats of a rainy session continued to be pushed back mid-day on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring as FP3 got underway under sunny and dry conditions, with air temperatures at 20° Celsius.

As everyone was expecting rain on Friday, teams fast-tracked their programs, which perhaps explained why only a handful of drivers indulged in a bit of running in the first 20 minutes of the session.

The Haas rookies were unsurprisingly the most assiduous early on, but George Russell set the first relative benchmark.

Bottas, who will start his race three positions lower from wherever he qualifies for pulling off an ill-fated Tokyo drift stunt in the pitlane in FP2, was the first of the big guns to join the action. And the Finn duly went to the top of the time sheet.

Gradually, the rest of the field got going, with Verstappen and Hamilton jumping ahead of Bottas, before AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda popped up to P2, perhaps spurred on by a low fuel load.

But 30 minutes in, a string of drivers, including teammate Pierre Gasly, pushed the Japanese charger out of the top five.

Meanwhile, Verstappen dipped into the 1m04s with a lap that gave him a comfortable 0.396s advantage over Hamilton despite the Mercedes driver going faster than the Dutchman in the final sector.

A lull set in with 20 minutes left on the clock as everyone regrouped and took stock of their efforts.

When the action resumed, Hamilton and Bottas went top ahead of Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. But another flyer by the Red Bull driver pushed him to P2, two tenths adrift from his arch-rival.

As the checkered flag fell, Bottas and Perez completed the leading Mercedes-Red Bull formation, but AlphaTauri clocked in strong once again with Tsundoa and Gasly lining up 5th and 6th.

Leclerc, Alonso, Vettel and Stroll rounded off the top ten from which McLaren’s drivers were conspicuously absent, with Ricciardo and Norris concluding their session a lowly P17 and P19.

On we go then to a promising Saturday afternoon qualifying that Mercedes and Hamilton will enter in a better position than last weekend in France. But in the opposing camp, Red Bull and Verstappen await their worthy adversaries.

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