Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Pérez went quickest in the final practice for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by seven hundredths of a second, while championship leader finished third in the other Red Bull.
Repairs to barriers following an incident in the earlier Formula 2 Sprint Race meant that the start of FP3 was delayed by 15 minutes. When eventually the green light went on at the end of the pit lane, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and the Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were quickly out on track. Mercedes in particular were looking to maximise running following a difficult Friday in which the team again experienced severe porpoising.
Russell posted the first time of the session, a 1:47.256, on softs tyres, but it was clear the British driver’s car was still suffering from the bouncing that has frequently hampered the team’s efforts since the start of the season. Russell’s time was soon beaten by the Ferrari pair of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, with the latter claiming top spot thanks to a lap of 1:44.661.
Red Bull left their appearance late, with a third of the session gone before Pérez and Verstappen took to the track. Pérez soon jumped to the top of the order with a lap of 1:44.416, with championship leader Verstappen just five hundredths of a second slower than his team-mate.
Leclerc was soon back in action, however, and the Monegasque driver returned to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:43.514s, almost half a second clear of team-mate Sainz. Pérez then split the Ferraris before the field returned to their garage to plan for the qualifying simulations.
Verstappen then moved to second place, a tenth of Leclerc’s first-half marker. Leclerc was starting his qualifying simulation however and he used it to stretch the gap to second place to four tenths of a second with a lap of 143.240.
It looked like Leclerc would remain the fastest man, but last in the session Pérez managed to find space on a crowded track to put in a lap that took him back to the top, albeit by the slim margin of 0.070s.
Verstappen might have also challenged for top spot, setting a purple time in the first sector of his final push lap, but he encountered a slow Alpine in the second sector and was forced to back out of his lap.
Sainz remained fourth, some four tenths behind Perez, while McLaren’s overnight improvements worked well and Lando Norris finished firth ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was seventh, followed by Russell. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10, ahead of the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso, with Hamilton in 12th. The seven-time champion not only struggled with porpoising but also complained of a lack of rear-end grip during another tough session for Mercedes.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 18 1:43.170
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 19 1:43.240 0.070
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 14 1:43.449 0.279
4 Carlos Sainz F1-75 Ferrari Ferrari 19 1:43.596 0.426
5 Lando Norris McLaren 13 1:44.418 1.248
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 19 1:44.476 1.306
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 21 1:44.491 1.321
8 George Russell Mercedes 17 1:44.573 1.403
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 15 1:44.685 1.515
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 18 1:44.689 1.519
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine 14 1:44.842 1.672
12 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 19 1:44.845 1.675
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 17 1:44.879 1.709
14 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 18 1:44.913 1.743
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 17 1:44.919 1.749
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 20 1:44.964 1.794
17 Alex Albon Williams 17 1:45.479 2.309
18 Mick Schumacher Haas 19 1:45.532 2.362
19 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 17 1:45.574 2.404
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 17 1:46.070 2.900