Moving through the F1 weekend and FP3 will see more drivers refining their set-ups, defining race strategy and given time, perhaps a few tweaks for qualifying. The session beginning with news that Pascal Wehrlein would not be running in his Sauber, his feeling that he had not recovered from his accident at the Race of Champions several months prior. On the one hand it is right he should say if he’s not feeling up to it, but it does let the team down on an important weekend. Sauber needing a good start to the season and the FP3 results not making the best reading for the team.
During the seesion we see an unusual incident sending Kimi Räikkönen off the circuit, his feeling was of a puncture, then the engine cutting out. Folowing restarting his engine the car appeared none the worse for wear. But a surprisingly quick time saw Nico Hulkenberg earning 5th place in the session and ahead of both Red Bull’s, a great lap but still well down on the top 4 drivers.
There was limited running from most of the field, again many teams opting to save their engines for the race. In particular, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso running just 7 laps. McLaren doing all they can to limit running, the Honda engine still considered very fragile, this weekend has been their best running unit to date. While Alonso finishing 12th in FP2 and 14th in FP3 still managing to run better than the pre-season concerns that the cars won’t meet the 107% criteria. Meanwhile Red Bull have been off the pace in this session, instead opting to test a range a range of set-ups, possibly with heavier fuel loads.
Towards the end of the session Lance Stroll hitting the wall, bringing out the red flag red flag. Some damage to the syspension but no doubt the team will have the damage repaired in time for qualifying. Driver error but slightly unlucky given the point where the back end stood out, all a learning experience for the F1 rookie.
So the final standings, Sebastien Vettel topping FP3, as expected, we’ve seen a gradual increase in pace throughout the 3 sessions. Ferrari appear to be on form in the longer runs and more than a match for Mercedes, given the current information. But, in qualification we’ll see the engines turned up to max and the true performance will be revealed. Can Sebastian Vettel maintain his advantage or have Mercedes still been holding back? It’s an intriguing prospect, qualification report to follow.