Lewis Hamilton nearly a second behind Max Verstappen in final practice before qualifying at the French Grand Prix as Red Bull ace bids to extend his world championship lead over Mercedes rival
- Lewis Hamilton fell nearly a second behind Max Verstappen in FP3 in France
- The Mercedes man could not find the pace to keep up with his Red Bull rival
- Verstappen is bidding to extend his championship lead over Hamilton
- The Red Bull ace will look to clinch another pole position at Paul Ricard
Max Verstappen set an impressive pace in the final practice session for the French Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton finished only fifth.
Verstappen, fastest in Friday’s concluding running, ended the final action before qualifying seven tenths ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was third with Sergio Perez fourth, nearly a second slower than his Red Bull team-mate.
Hamilton had held urgent talks with his engineers to work out what was wrong with his Mercedes car, but he still remains some way off his Red Bull rival.
Lewis Hamilton could not make up the pace gap with Max Verstappen in FP3 in France
‘There’s something not right with the car, man,’ complained Hamilton over the radio. When Friday’s driving was over, the search for a quick remedy began ahead of qualifying on Saturday.
On both previous occasions Hamilton has competed in Marseille he took pole and won the race. But in those days he did not have Verstappen in a competitive Red Bull providing stiff opposition.
Hamilton’s mood can hardly have been helped by the fact that his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who has been short of form and confidence, was sandwiched between Verstappen and himself.
The Red Bull ace was nearly a second faster than his Mercedes rival in Saturday’s final practice
The 23-year-old leads the championship race and looks set to extend his lead over Hamilton
However, recent experience provides encouragement to the Briton. For at the last race in Azerbaijan he was 11th on Friday only for a transformation to put him in contention for a podium finish.
That did not materialise because he then made a mistake in hitting a button on his steering wheel that robbed his brakes of all usefulness.
‘Even though I am in a higher position in practice than in Monaco and Baku, it is quite a struggle this weekend,’ Hamilton admitted on Friday.
The Briton has held crunch talks with his engineers to try and work out what is going wrong
‘I am not sure if it is the track surface, or the temperature, or these inflated tyres. They have put the pressures up higher than ever before, so it is difficult to say. We are sliding around.
‘I am looking at every option. We have made lots of changes and we will do a lot of analysis tonight in the hope that it will be better tomorrow, but we will not know until then.
‘The times don’t look terrible, and we are close to the front, so we are in the battle. But Red Bull have been leading for a while now so you could have bet they would be quick.’
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