SAKHIR, Bahrain — Ferrari is looking increasingly strong at Formula One’s Bahrain Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel clinching the top two spots in the third and final practice ahead of qualifying later Saturday.
Leclerc was 0.169 seconds ahead of his teammate. They were also 1-2 in both practice sessions Friday, each topping one of them.
But constructors’ champion Mercedes has been off the pace so far in Bahrain. World champion Lewis Hamilton was third and teammate Valtteri Bottas fourth quickest in P3, both around 0.8 seconds slower than Leclerc.
The leaderboard changed several times during Saturday’s afternoon session in warm but slightly windy conditions, with track temperatures hovering just under 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Hamilton went top for a few moments, as briefly did Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Both were easily surpassed by the Ferrari pair nearing the end of the hour-long stint.
Qualifying starts at 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) and mirrors the considerably cooler race conditions. Sunday’s GP begins at 6:10 p.m. and finishes with floodlights illuminating the 5.4-kilometre (3.3-mile) desert track.
Bottas won the season-opening Australian GP ahead of Hamilton in Melbourne two weeks ago. Vettel finished fourth and Leclerc fifth in a disappointing race for Ferrari.
Vettel, however, has won the past two Bahrain GPs driving for Ferrari.
Hamilton’s last win here was from pole position in 2015 for Mercedes.