Max Verstappen came out on top in the Bahrain Grand Prix.© AFP

World champion Max Verstappen clocked the fastest lap in the third and final practice session Saturday at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton over half a second behind in sixth place. Verstappen’s time of 1min 32.544sec was 0.096sec quicker than Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, while Sergio Perez took third in the second Red Bull ahead of qualifying at 1500 GMT. The Mercedes pairing of George Russell and Hamilton finished fourth and sixth respectively, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz sandwiched between.

Unlike the other top runners, Hamilton did not go back out for a second run late in the session as Mercedes looked more competitive than they had on Friday.

Kevin Magnussen, back at Haas after replacing Russian driver Nikita Mazepin, took seventh in front of Alfa Romeo duo Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, China’s first Formula One driver.

Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 in his Aston Martin.


Sunday’s Grand Prix is the first of a revised 22-race calendar, trimmed from 23 events following the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix.

The sport’s most sweeping technical rule changes in 40 years, featuring new race management and all-new cars designed to create closer racing, may throw up some shocks this season.