Bahrain GP 2024 Free Practice 3: Sainz fastest, Red Bull third and eighth, Mercedes struggle

Follow the action as F1 teams and drivers take to the Bahrain International Circuit for FP3 at the 2024 Bahrain GP, the final practice session before qualifying.

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Welcome to our coverage of the Free Practice 3 session at the 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix, coming to you directly from the heart-pounding turns of the Bahrain International Circuit. As the Formula 1 season kicks off under the desert stars, join us for real-time updates, expert commentary, and behind-the-scenes insights into every thrilling moment of the action.

Following a competitive FP2 session where Lewis Hamilton led the pack, narrowly edging out Mercedes teammate George Russell, and almost half a second faster than Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen, the anticipation for FP3 was sky-high.

Hamilton’s surprise time set the stage for a highly contested session under the desert stars, promising an exciting build up to qualifying, but could the Silver Arrows maintain their pace?

Make sure and join our live blog for the 2024 Bahrain GP which starts at 18:00 local time.

Report: Sainz quickest in FP3, Mercedes fail to impress

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz went fastest in the final practice session of the Formula 1 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix race weekend as the Spaniard topped the timings in a competitive FP3 session.

The 29-year-old responded to the disappointment of learning he has lost his seat for next year by punching in the best lap time of anyone, putting one-and-a-half tenths between himself and his childhood hero Fernando Alonso with a 1:30.8.

While Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner was summoned for a meeting with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Max Verstappen showed a marked improvement from their FP2 pace and the Dutchman was only a few tenths off the pace in third. Sergio Perez was down in eighth, but not far away from his team-mate after the Mexican struggled with upshifts.

Charles Leclerc kept apace with Sainz and Verstappen in fourth, showcasing it could be a close battle for pole between the Red Bulls and Ferraris.

The pace set by Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on Thursday was somewhat lacking in FP3 as Mercedes’ words of caution appeared to be accurate. Russell managed an impressive P6 but Hamilton couldn’t improve his time as he settled for 12th in FP3.

Early season predictions that Haas would be at the back of the grid may well be premature, after Nico Hulkenberg kept up with the rest of the midfield and snuck inside the top 10 ahead of Lance Stroll.

That’s all from us for now. Join us from 15:30 for qualifying!


FP3 timings

1 Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 1:30.724

2 Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, +0.141

3 Max Verstappen, Red Bull, +0.238

4 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +0.270

5 Lando Norris, McLaren, +0.294

6 George Russell, Mercedes, +0.366

7 Oscar Piastri, McLaren, +0.386

8 Sergio Perez, Red Bull, +0.424

9 Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, +0.454

10 Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +0.572

End of FP3!

That’s it! A great result for Carlos Sainz. Yes, it’s only testing, but that is the best kind of message to send to his bosses at Ferrari. Alonso, too, showed how quick he can be by beating the Red Bulls.

As for the reigning champions, you do feel like they have another level to find for qualifying, with Verstappen P3 and Perez P8 in the end.

Mercedes have been slower with Russell sixth and Hamilton down in 12th. Let’s see if that is a good indicator of what to expect for quali at 4pm.

Sainz goes fastest!

Carlos Sainz talks in the Ferrari garage ahead of free practice at the 2023 Las Vegas GP | Scuderia Ferrari

That was a huge lap from the Spaniard and an important one. It’s not been an ideal way to prepare for the 2024 season after being told he’s being replaced by Lewis Hamilton next season.

What better way to prove them wrong by going the fastest of any one, knocking in a 1:30.8. Nice going, Carlos!

10 minutes to go!

It’s really heating up now and we’re going to have a brilliant battle for pole, I can feel it.

Verstappen pips Perez by two tenths, then Alonso goes quicker by under a tenth with a 1:31.0. But don’t sleep on Norris, who squeezes himself in between the two Red Bulls and goes third.

FULL STORY: Horner meets with Ben Sulayem

Christian Horner missed his 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix FP3 duties to meet with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem to discuss the controversy over his Red Bull investigation into inappropriate and controlling behaviour.

Ben Sulayem is also set to meet F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali at the Bahrain GP to address the situation, after supposed evidence was leaked just after the end of FP2, and around 24 hours after Red Bull had cleared Horner of any wrongdoing.

Read the full story

BREAKING: Horner ‘meets with FIA president’

Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner at 2024 F1 Testing | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner at 2024 F1 Testing | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is currently meeting with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, according to Sky Sports F1.

Horner is not currently in his usual position on the Red Bull pit wall and he has made his way to meet with Ben Sulayem. Reports suggest F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali will be present too.

Last minute changes

Lewis Hamilton’s mechanics are working on the car to change the brake materials, according to Sky Sport F1’s Ted Kravitz.

Lando Norris is also not entirely happy with his setup and they are making some tweaks to the MCL 38.

Just over 20 minutes to go now.

Red Bull problems?

Sergio Perez of Red Bull during 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix practice | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Sergio Perez of Red Bull during 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix practice | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen 12th, Sergio Perez 19th? It’s not something you often see in an FP3 session, with the Red Bulls usually near the front of the grid. Perez has complained about issues with his upshifts, so there could be an underlying issue.

However, their pace is not yet indicative on their performance. Both drivers have been on the hard tyre so far, whereas the rest of the grid have opted to show their pace on the soft.

Once Verstappen and Perez switch to the softs for a qualifying simulation, expect them to surge up the timing board.

30 mins to go: Alonso fastest so far

1 Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, 1:31.582

2 George Russell, Mercedes, +0.239

3 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, +0.443

4 Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, +0.620

5 Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, +0.700

6 Kevin Magnussen, Haas, +0.858

7 Alex Albon, Williams, +0.913

8 Lando Norris, McLaren, +1.029

9 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +1.151

10 Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, +1.109

Mercedes power

George Russell gets to grips with the Mercedes W15 at 2024 pre-season testing in Bahrain | LAT Images / Meredes F1 Team

Now we’re cooking.

George Russell looks rapid out on track and posts an impressive 1:31.5, so half a second quicker than Lance Stroll.

But Fernando Alonso goes purple in the first sector in his Aston Martin and beats that time by two tenths. Are we treating this as a Mercedes audition, or is it too early?

Magnussen sets early pace

We’re 20 minutes into the session and Kevin Magnussen is the surprise early leader on the soft tyre with a 1:32.440.

We’ve had eight drivers post a hot lap so far, with Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton in close pursuit. Sergio Perez has headed out on the hard tyre, presumably for a long run and with some fuel on board.

It might not be until later in the session that we’ll see the times start tumbling down.

Green light! FP3 underway

We’re officially underway in the final practice session of this Bahrain GP weekend but as of yet, no cars have decided to come out of the garage.

Who will be the first to punch a hole in the air?

Hamilton upbeat about Mercedes changes

Lewis Hamilton looks on in a press conference at the 2024 pre-season test in Bahrain | Mercedes / Jiri Krenek
Lewis Hamilton looks on in a press conference at the 2024 pre-season test in Bahrain | Mercedes / Jiri Krenek

Lewis Hamilton certainly is a much happier guy compared to this time last year, especially after a Mercedes 1-2 in FP2 – the first time since Canada in 2023 that this has happened.

“I’m much happier with the car this year,” he said. “My seating position is finally further rearwards, I’ve got a better feel for the car approaching the corners, but there are other areas that have been fixed and improved and it feels like a race car, for once.

“The last two cars didn’t feel like that, so it’s really good platform for us to work on and we’ve just got to keep our heads down and keep on chasing.”

It’s safe to say the seven-time world champion is delighted with the feeling in the W15 compared to the last two years… a warning for his rivals?

Christian Horner latest

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner talks with Mohammed ben Sulayem, FIA President, on the grid of the 2023 US GP sprint | Chris Graythen/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

You might have heard some reports of a leak of material allegedly involving Christian Horner after the Red Bull team principal was cleared by the team following an independent investigation.

Horner has been speaking this morning after releasing a statement about that last night, and the 50-year-old very much stayed tight-lipped during another brief grilling from reporters. “No comment” was the repeated answer from Horner.

According to Autosport, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali are to meet with Horner to discuss the allegations against him.

It seems this one is far from over.

Good afternoon!

The final practice session before qualifying is nearly upon us and it’s such a crucial one for the teams.

Qualifying simulations will be ran throughout the session, but it’s also their last opportunity to look at long runs on certain tyre compounds. Will we see a different running order to FP2 yesterday? Were Red Bull sandbagging with Max Verstappen?

All of that, and more, to come in 15 minutes or so. So stick with us!

Detailed 2024 Bahrain GP Session Times and Dates

Session / TimeBahrainUKUS (ET)US (PT)Aus. (AEDT)
Practice 114:3011:3006:3003:3022:30
Practice 218:0015:0010:0007:0002:00*
Practice 315:3012:3007:3004:3023:30
Qualifying19:0016:0011:0008:0003:00*
Race18:0015:0010:0007:0002:00*

When Does the Bahrain GP 2024 Start?

The 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix is eagerly anticipated by fans worldwide. It’s the inaugural race of the season, promising to deliver an electrifying start. The race will illuminate the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday, March 2, with the main race set to commence at 18:00 local time in Bahrain. For international viewers, times will vary:

  • United Kingdom (GMT/UTC): 15:00 on Sunday, March 3.
  • United States (ET/PT): 10:00 ET / 07:00 PT on Sunday, March 3.
  • Australia (AEDT): 02:00 AEDT on Monday, March 4.
  • Canada (ET/PT): 10:00 ET / 07:00 PT on Sunday, March 3.

Where to Watch the F1 2024 Bahrain GP in Australia

Fox Sports and Kayo Sports are the go-to platforms for watching F1 in Australia. Fox Sports will broadcast the Bahrain GP live on TV, while Kayo offers a streaming service tailored for sports enthusiasts, featuring live and on-demand access to the F1 season.

Where to Watch the F1 2024 Bahrain GP in Canada

TSN and RDS secure the rights to F1 broadcasts in Canada, offering live coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix in English and French. Streaming is available for TSN and RDS subscribers via their respective websites and apps, ensuring fans can watch the race on multiple devices.

Where to Watch the F1 2024 Bahrain GP in Australia

Fox Sports and Kayo Sports are the go-to platforms for watching F1 in Australia. Fox Sports will broadcast the Bahrain GP live on TV, while Kayo offers a streaming service tailored for sports enthusiasts, featuring live and on-demand access to the F1 season.

Where to Watch the F1 2024 Bahrain GP in Canada

TSN and RDS secure the rights to F1 broadcasts in Canada, offering live coverage of the Bahrain Grand Prix in English and French. Streaming is available for TSN and RDS subscribers via their respective websites and apps, ensuring fans can watch the race on multiple devices.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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