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Mexico FP3: Verstappen chased by Hamilton and Vettel

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen continued to set the pace at the Mexican Grand Prix as he did on Friday, claiming the top spot on the timings screens at the end of the first and final free practice session of the weekend.

Verstappen’s time of 1:16.284 was half a second faster than his best effort on Friday afternoon, and three-quarters of a second up on teammate Daniel Ricciardo in fourth.

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Mercedes and Ferrari struggled on the first day at Autodrome Hermanos Rodriguez but appear back in touch, the massive one-second gap 24-hours ago was down to a just a couple of tenths by the end of Saturday morning.

Overnight the championship contenders found some pace or dialled up the horse and as a result, Lewis Hamilton was second fastest with Sebastian Vettel fractionally slower, in third, at the end of the one-hour session.

However, there was concern in the Silver Arrows pits when Valtteri Bottas was forced to park his car with a hydraulics failure, as a result of which he did not set a representative time. An “engine swap” is expected.

Kimi Raikkonen was fifth fastest, half a second shy of his teammate in the other Ferrari and only a hundredth of a second faster than Charles Leclerc in the Sauber, the rookie getting the ball rolling with an impressive early lap before dropping down the order.

Renault showed good form on the opening day, but were not quite in the ballpark in FP3 with Carlos Sainz quickest of the pair in seventh, three tenths up on Nico Hulkenberg in tenth.

Pierre Gasly was eighth in the Toro Rosso, ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson in ninth.

The Haas of Kevin Magnussen suffered an intercooler problem which kept him in the garage for most of the session as his crew set on doing the repair work between sessions.

The session got underway with the track damp, which dried rapidly until fully dry for the final ten minutes in which the fast laps were set by most drivers.

For fans at the track, it was yet another FP3 yawn as teams were reluctant to sample the track with limited Pirelli intermediate tyres available. It took half an hour for anyone to set a time.

Nevertheless, the stage is set for an intriguing pole position shootout in which any of the six Big Three team drivers could do the business, but the man to beat in qualifying is without a doubt last year’s winner in the #33 Red Bull.