Charles Leclerc claimed top spot in the final practice session for the Russian Grand Prix, beating team-mate Sebastian Vettel by three tenths of a second as Ferrari set the pace at the Sochi Autodrom.
Leclerc led the way in the opening phase of the session with the Monegasque racer using soft compound Pirelli tyres to set a time of 1:33.906. That put him 0.171s ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas who ran on the same compound during the first half hour of the session. Third place ahead of the qualifying simulations wen to FP2’s fastest man, Max Verstappen, though in the first half of final practice the Dutch driver restricted himself to medium tyres. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was four tenths of a second off Leclerc’s early pace, with a time again set on soft tyres, while Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari was 0.609 adrift of his team-mate.
Further back there was trouble for Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. The home favourite pulled over at the side of the track a little over 20 minutes into the session, with the Russian reporting and engine problem. All-four Honda powered drivers are taking PU-related penalties this weekend, and Kvyat’s FP3 failure was his second of the weekend so far.
Ferrari were the first team to bolt on new soft tyres for qualifying runs, with Leclerc and Vettel taking to the track with a little over 20 minutes left in the session.
Leclerc’s improvement was a marked one, with the 21-year-old cutting 1.2s off his earlier time to set a new benchmark of 1:32.733. Vettel struggled to match that on his first run and he took P2, four tenths of a second behind his team-mate. A second run would eventually elevate the German to second place, though he was still three tenths adrift of Leclerc at the flag.
Third place in the session went to Hamilton with the title leader setting a best time of 1:33.129, 0.396 off the P1 pace and more than two tenths ahead of fourth-placed team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen finished in fifth place, by virtue of his medium-tyre time from the first half of the session.
The Dutch driver went out for his quali sim in the final quarter of an hour but a messy lap saw him bounce across the kerbs in Turn 2 and then he suffered a spin in Turn 13. He retreated to the Red Bull garage and didn’t appear on track again in the final minutes of the session.
Romain Grosjean was sixth for Haas, with the Frechman around eight hundredths of a second behind Verstappen but 0.06s ahead of the second Red Bull of Alex Albon who was making up for time lost in FP2 on Friday.
Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for the works Renault team ahead of the Renault-powered McLaren of Lando Norris on a morning on which it was announced that McLaren will move to Mercedes power in 2021. The final top-10 place was taken by Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas.
2019 FIA Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:32.733 14 227.025
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.049 0.316 15 226.254
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.129 0.396 19 226.060
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.354 0.621 18 225.515
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:34.227 1.494 12 223.426
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:34.308 1.575 17 223.234
7 Alexander Albon Red Bull 1:34.371 1.638 21 223.085
8 Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:34.421 1.688 13 222.967
9 Lando Norris McLaren 1:34.527 1.794 15 222.717
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:34.546 1.813 15 222.672
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:34.564 1.831 16 222.630
12 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:34.586 1.853 14 222.578
13 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren 1:34.607 1.874 18 222.528
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:34.766 2.033 15 222.155
15 Sergio Pérez Racing Point 1:34.860 2.127 7 221.935
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:34.898 2.165 16 221.846
17 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo 1:35.714 2.981 19 219.955
18 George Russell Williams 1:36.011 3.278 18 219.274
19 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:36.081 3.348 4 219.115
20 Robert Kubica Williams 1:36.942 4.209 19 217.169