Charles Leclerc outpoints his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel in final practice.(Photo: AFP)
Ferrari new boy Charles Leclerc led team-mate Sebastian Vettel at the top of the times in Saturday’s third and final free practice for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
In searing heat at the Bahrain International Circuit, the 21-year-old Monegasque tyro scorched to a best lap in one minute and 29.569 seconds to outpace Vettel by 0.169 seconds.
Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton scrambled to third with a last-gasp lap for Mercedes, but he was more than seven-tenths adrift of Leclerc as Ferrari reproduced the pace shown at pre-season testing.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Nico Hulkenberg in a Renault and, after a bold late lap, British rookie Lando Norris of McLaren.
Despite looking quick in mid-session, Dutchman Max Verstappen wound up down in eighth for Red Bull ahead of Carlos Sainz in the second McLaren and Russian returnee Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso.
The session was run in temperatures touching 39 degrees Celsius at Sakhir where windy conditions added to the difficulties on a sweltering afternoon.
Ferrari have won six times in Bahrain and Vettel is chasing his third successive victory and fifth overall.
Four-time former champion Vettel has also been on pole a record three times in Bahrain and will be keen to prevent his ‘pupil’ from upstaging the master in Saturday’s qualifying session.