Vettel on top ahead of Leclerc as Ferrari rule again

Image: AFP / Andrej Isakovic
Image: AFP / Andrej Isakovic

Sebastian Vettel topped the times ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc as Ferrari set the pace ahead of Mercedes in Saturday morning's third and final free practice for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix.

The four-time champion, showing a measured determination, made the most of his car's superior straight-line speed to clock a best lap in one minute and 10.843, one-tenth ahead of the young Monegasque.

Defending five-time champion and current series leader Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes ahead of his team-mate Valtteri Bottas, the Briton showing no undue reaction in his rebuilt car following his crash in second free practice on Friday.

For Ferrari, it was a significant signal of resurgence on a high-speed circuit where their pure speed may assist them in ending Mercedes' record run of six consecutive season-opening victories.

Max Verstappen was fifth ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo of Renault, Lando Norris of McLaren and Sergio Perez of Racing Point. Daniil Kvyat was 10th in his Toro Rosso.

On another warm, dry and sunny morning on the Ile Notre-Dame, the session started slowly with Robert Kubica the first man to clock a time for Williams after 11 minutes. He had been absent on Friday, when his car was taken by local rookie Nicholas Latifi.

The desultory action continued. Even by the 20th minute, there were only four timed laps on the board - with nobody, from a top team, venturing out - but this changed when Ferrari chose to join the fray.

Vettel immediately took top spot ahead of Leclerc while Hamilton, back on track for the first time since his crash in FP2, slotted into third.

Clearly in the mood, Leclerc clocked a 1:11.596 lap, fastest of the weekend. Vettel and Hamilton improved, but were one-tenth adrift. A rustle of anticipation among the fans signalled Ferrari optimism.

The crowd witnessed another spectacle when Lance Stroll came in, the rear of his Racing Point erupting with flames. The team diagnosed a hydraulics leak.

Kimi Raikkonen, in his Alfa Romeo, was then forced to take avoiding action when a groundhog sauntered across the circuit before Bottas went quickest by just 0.026.

Ferrari responded immediately. Leclerc went back to the top in 1:11.058 ahead of Vettel before they were split by Hamilton.

He was two-tenths off the Monegasque's best time, which was soon reduced to 1:10.982, the Ferrari men making the most of their superior straight-line speed. Vettel endorsed their power advantage in 1:10.943 to snatch top spot again.

For the scarlet scuderia, this was a promising riposte and very different to the travails of Monte Carlo two weeks previously.

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Sebastian Vettel - At least he'll get a taste of what the 2021 car will be like
26% - 556 votes
Nico Hulkenberg - He's been with the team before
27% - 577 votes
Fernando Alonso - A true racer, and the fastest Spaniard around
33% - 703 votes
Jenson Button - Any team can benefit from a champion driver
13% - 278 votes