Fernando Alonso pipped Max Verstappen in the final practice session of the Bahrain Grand Prix to set up an exciting opening qualifying session for the first Formula 1 race of the year.
Both drivers made mistakes on their laps and Alonso was surprised to be at the top of the timing sheets as his 1:32.340 was just 0.005 seconds quicker than Verstappen.
Sergio Perez was just 0.106 seconds behind Alonso and Mercedes looked better with Lewis Hamilton just a further tenth behind and Charles Leclerc the best of the Ferrari cars in fifth, 0.284 off the pace.
George Russell was sixth, then came Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz, Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly as the to 10 were split by less than eight tenths of a second, underlining the closely bunched field.
Esteban Ocon, Zhou Guanyu and Lando Norris were all within one second with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen following in 14th and 15th.
Valtteri Bottas didn’t put together a strong lap in 16th, whilst the Williams and AlphaTauri drivers are set to be battling to not be on the back row of the grid.
Don’t read too much into Bahrain FP3
Similarly to FP1, it’s hard to read too much into the lap times due to practice behind held in the day, whereas qualifying and the race are at night, so the track conditions are completely different.
That said, we can surely expect a fight for pole position between Red Bull and Aston Martin, with Verstappen and Alonso leading the charge.
It’s great to see the whole field bunched up, which is what F1 wanted with these new regulations that were introduced at the start of 2022, although qualifying will likely see the gaps open up.
Interestingly, Red Bull elected to use a set of hard tyres early in FP3 which leaves them with just one set of the C1 compound for the race.
It was thought that the teams would want at least two sets of C1 tyres for the Grand Prix, so we are already seeing different strategy games being played.