Hamilton tops Styrian GP FP3

Hamilton tops Styrian GP FP3

Lewis Hamilton broke Max Verstappen’s practice streak by topping the final session ahead of qualifying at the Styrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s best time of 1m04.369s was 0.204s quicker than Verstappen’s best effort, although the Dutchman’s final flying lap, attempted in the final 10 minutes when the circuit was at its fastest, was hamstrung by traffic at Turn 3, leaving him 0.155s down in the first sector.

The bulk of Verstappen’s advantage over the weekend to date has been in the power-sensitive first sector, where his Honda power unit is best able to stretch its legs.

Mercedes and Hamilton have been eager to identify apparent power gains by Honda since it introduced its second power unit last round in Baku as a source of Red Bull Racing’s advantage, despite no engine development being allowed this season.

Honda power was behind four of the top six finishers, with AlphaTauri teammates Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly fifth and sixth, 0.7s and 0.9s off the pace respectively. Gasly — who sat out second practice after Honda detected a telemetry anomaly in his power unit in FP1 — was equipped with a new MGU-K, his third and last free change of the season.

Mercedes tends to run underpowered throughout practice, turning up its power units only for qualifying and the race, leaving the pecking order too close to call ahead of qualifying this afternoon, for which the FIA forecasts a moderate chance of thunderstorms.

Hamilton and Verstappen’s teammates, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez, were further adrift from their leading teammates, 0.463s and 0.657s off the pace respectively.

Charles Leclerc was an improved seventh after a lackluster Friday, and the Ferrari driver felt there was more on the table in the third sector after encountering traffic on his flying lap. He was 0.971 off the pace.

Fernando Alonso followed for Alpine in eighth as the first man outside a second of the benchmark, while Lance Stroll led Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel in ninth and 10th.

Antonio Giovinazzi and Esteban Ocon finished 11th and 12th ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with George Russell and Kimi Raikkonen following.

Mick Schumacher was a strong 16th for Haas ahead of McLaren teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris in 17th and 19th, the pair split by Nicholas Latifi. The papaya cars struggled all session, though Norris’s exaggerated 2.2s deficit was down to his best effort being deleted for exceeding track limits.

Nikita Mazepin was 20th after spinning his car exiting the first turn.