FP3: Bottas ahead of Vettel as big Albon crash shortens session
In the last free practice session before qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas headed the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel – but the session was cut short by a huge crash for Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon, who put his STR14 heavily into the wall on the pit straight.
Bottas was enjoying a healthy margin of around four tenths of a second over the two Ferraris of Vettel and Charles Leclerc with five minutes of Free Practice 3 remaining when Albon ran wide on the final corner. The Thai driver’s Toro Rosso wobbled on the astro turf before he was sent hurtling at worrying speed into the nearside track barrier.
Albon was soon out of the car and walking around, but the STR14 looked a long shot to be rebuilt in time for qualifying. That’s a shame, as both he and team mate Daniil Kvyat had shown strong pace, finishing the session in ninth and 10th respectively.
Behind Bottas and the two Ferraris, Lewis Hamilton failed to put one good lap together to end up fourth, while Nico Hulkenberg was once again impressive for Renault to go P5 – as he was in FP2 – ahead of the similarly impressive Kimi Raikkonen, sixth for Alfa Romeo.
Max Verstappen will be hoping for a better performance in qualifying than we saw in FP3, ending up P7 and 1.6s off the pace – although he was comfortably clear of Pierre Gasly, who wound up 15th, although the Frenchman didn’t deign to use the soft tyres – while Verstappen’s former Toro Rosso team mate Carlos Sainz was eighth for McLaren.
Lower down the order, Haas once again found themselves at the tail end of things, although the American squad weren’t able to reveal their pace on soft tyres because of Albon’s crash, so there may be more in the locker for Romain Grosjean, who wound up P17, and Kevin Magnussen, who was P18, in qualifying.
They finished ahead of the two Williams cars of George Russell and Robert Kubica, the team bolstered in the garage by the presence of the returning Patrick Head, Williams’ legendary engineer who’s now acting as a consultant for the team.