Alonso remains in command – edges Verstappen in Bahrain FP3

© XPB 

There was no knocking Fernando Alonso off the top line of the timing sheet in FP3, the Spaniard keeping himself and Aston Martin ahead of the field in Saturday's final practice.

However, Alonso edged Max Verstappen by just 0.005s as the Red Bull driver, like his rival, made the most of Pirelli's soft compound.

Sergio Perez complete the top three while Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc rounded off the top five, indicating that there was still more pace to unlock at Mercedes and Ferrari.

It was a leisurely start for the third and final free practice of the weekend, with over half the field remaining inactive during the first 20 minutes, which was hardly surprising given the sessions' unrepresentative warmer track conditions compared to qualifying and race day.

The early running pitted the Mercedes against the Ferraris but as more cars joined the action, lap times began to fall.

Unsurprisingly, it was Alonso, still powering ahead on the Aston Martin hype train, who smashed Lewis Hamilton's early benchmark.

Meanwhile, Verstappen kicked off his session and put the fifth fastest lap on the board, but the Dutchman relied on Pirelli's hard compound tyre to set a time that was just half a second slower than Alonso.

Contrary to the bulk of the field, Verstappen and Perez shied away from the soft tyre, rendering null and void any comparison with Alonso and Aston Martin.

With just over 15 minutes to go, Stroll stole his teammate's thunder – very temporarily – as he popped to the top of the timesheet with a 1m32.919s that edged Alonso by 0.202s, another positive sign for Team Silverstone.

However, a flurry of flying laps by soft-shod drivers re-arranged the pecking order, with Hamilton and Russell knocking Aston's chargers off their pedestal.

But the Mercs' tenuous hegemony was short lived, with Alonso, Verstappen and Perez overhauling the Brackley's squad's duo to conclude FP3 at the top, setting up a proper Aston Martin/Red Bull showdown for qualifying.

Leclerc slotted his Ferrari between Hamilton and Russell, with Stroll and Sainz lining up P7 and P8.

Thereafter followed McLaren's Oscar Piastri, who produced a solid effort to clock in ninth, while his teammate Lando Norris finished 13th.

Alpine's Gasly rounded off the top ten, just one spot ahead of his teammate Esteban Ocon.

Alfa's chargers Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas concluded final practice respectively P12 and P19, while Haas' Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg were P14 and P15.

AlphaTauri's fortunes were still depressed in FP3 with Nyck de Vries bringing up the rear, but Logan Sargeant once again acquitted himself well, the young American clocking in just ahead of his Williams teammate Alex Albon.

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter