Verstappen lays down the gauntlet with a fast lap in FP3 at the French Grand Prix –

Max Verstappen stormed to the top of the timesheet in final practice ahead of qualifying for the 2022 French Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen in FP3. (Photo via Red Bull Racing Twitter).

Whereas Ferrari set the tone in FP1 and FP2drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc struggled in FP3, locking up at different points in turns eleven and twelve respectively.

At one point, the latter even lamented that his “tires died on the second lap”, showing that his team has problems to solve to be competitive in the race.

Ferrari’s troubles left Verstappen in a class of his own, and he comfortably set the session’s fastest time by more than three-tenths of a second.

By contrast, despite Mercedes introducing a host of new improvements to their car over the weekend, Lewis Hamilton was only able to post a time of 1:33.255, almost a second slower than the Dutchman.

The seven-time champion was using a different rear wing to that of team-mate George Russell, and it appeared to have had a significant impact on his pace on the circuit straights, at one point costing him 1.5 seconds per round against Verstappen.

If Hamilton is going to take his first win of the 2022 season at the 300th Formula 1 Grand Prix of his career then he is going to need a quick change of fortune during qualifying and the race.

A direct fight between Ferrari and Red Bull?

Heading into the weekend, Mercedes had been widely tipped to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull, but after a tough Friday practice in which Hamilton told Skysports they still had “a long way to go”, the team was no longer competitive in FP3. , with its drivers ultimately placing fourth and sixth.

Given that Mercedes’ fastest rider stayed the better part of a second behind Verstappen’s Red Bull during the session, Ferrari still eyed their closest challenger for the race, but the Italian team’s session was also less than ideal.

Even before Verstappen had achieved his fastest smooth lap, he had topped the timesheets impressively on the mids, with Sainz only managing to beat that in the final ten minutes of the session by a little more than a tenth.

Moreover, after the failure of its engine in Austria, the Spaniard has been forced to take a new internal combustion engine (ICE), turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K, meaning he will start last row on Sunday alongside Haas’ Kevin Magnusson, who also took an engine malus. Leaving Leclerc to fight alone in a two-way battle against the Red Bulls.

Improvements bring surprises to the midfield

So far, Mercedes’ improvements may not have worked as hoped at Circuit Paul Ricard, but those of its client team Williams have proven very effective.

See also

Sargeant takes pole

The team’s Thai-British driver Alexander Albon finished an impressive eighth in FP3, 0.283 seconds ahead of teammate Nicholas Latifi, bolstering hopes that Albon will make his first Q3 appearance and Latifi will break his points.

Elsewhere, with The race is expected to be tough on the tyres, Aston Martin looked good in the long runs in FP2, but its drivers’ pace suffered on faster rubber in FP3, with Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll finishing last and 18th, to about two seconds of the beat.

However, as is tradition in FP3, many riders were racing with a qualifying setup. As such, the true picture of tire degradation may not emerge until the end of the race tomorrow.

Qualifying for the 2022 French Grand Prix is ​​scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (BST).

Results of the French Grand Prix FP3 2022

Featured Image Credit: Red Bull Racing Twitter.

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