The leader of the World Championship against the barriers in the middle of the third and final free practice session, closed in command by the French of Alpha Tauri.
Pierre Gasly sets the best time in the FP3 in Baku with 344 thousandths of advantage over Sergio Perez and 446 on Lewis Hamilton who only at the end finds the inspiration (and the wake!) to emerge from the belly of the group and get behind the Ferrari by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz but it is what makes a sensation Max Verstappen’s mistake in curve 15 hitting the barriers in mid-round and unable to get back on track, closing with the fifteenth performance.
A very fast left turn downhill from the upper part of the old city of Baku, moreover with an important change of slope right at the braking point: it is turn 15, the one that – before Verstappen – had led many of his colleagues to make mistakes in the two Friday practice sessions, forced to “abort” the curve itself, pulling straight into the escape route. Worse had gone to Ferrari driver Leclerc who yesterday hit the barriers precisely at that point, albeit at a lower speed. After the red flag, necessary to remove and deliver the damaged RB16B to the pits, the session is resumed with Verstappen simple spectator in the pits and his “brothers” Gasly and Perez good at taking the first two boxes of the times table. A nice confirmation for both: for the Frenchman who in Baku has been a frequent visitor to the upper levels of the rankings since the Friday shifts and for the Mexican (the fastest of the FP2) who in Azerbaijan has the concrete possibility of ensuring an important contribution to the world champion cause of its captain.
In the final round, Mercedes has finally shown signs of life: taking advantage of the wake of a Racing Point, Hamilton managed to re-emerge from the “shoals” of the middle class, hoisting himself up to third place, ahead of the two Ferraris. On the other hand, the virtuous exercise (in the sense of the wake) failed to Valtteri Bottas, who faces the qualifications starting from the anonymous thirteenth time of the Free 3. Leclerc and Sainz’s session was not without difficulties. The Monegasque was unable to find the right “timing” to fully exploit his supersofts, while the Spaniard was the victims of a “long”, himself in the infamous turn 15.
In the top ten too the McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, respectively sixth and tenth, with the Australian who pays a delay almost double from the top compared to his teammate (one second and 306 against 760 thousandths). To separate the two MCL35 M papayas there are the Alpines of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, seventh and ninth, in turn divided by Yuki Tsunoda that – although not up to the height of his team-mate Gasly, he sets an eighth time to try and repeat in qualifying. Disappointing to finish the performance of the Alfa Romeo and in particular that of Antonio Giovinazzi: “ours” is only seventeenth (one second and eight from the top), Kimi Raikkonen a little further ahead: fifteenth.