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F1 European GP: Hamilton maintains Baku advantage in FP3

Lewis Hamilton remains the man to beat in Baku, as a loose drain cover damages Valtteri Bottas' Williams and Sergio Perez crashes.
CLICK HERE for full European Grand Prix FP3 results

Lewis Hamilton remains the driver to beat heading into qualifying for the European Grand Prix in Baku after snatching the top spot from Nico Rosberg in the closing stages of a truncated third free practice.

With Rosberg eager to get mileage on the board after a Power Unit problem brought an early end to his day on Friday, the German twice improved the benchmark over the course of the FP3 session, only for Hamilton to fire in a 1min 44.352secs on his final effort.

With the session ending on a red flag when Sergio Perez struck the wall on the exit of turn 15 in a similar accident to that which befell Daniel Ricciardo in FP1, Hamilton – despite running off at T1 – and Rosberg were split by 0.258secs, but would command a plus-second advantage over third place Nico Hulkenberg

Another strong session for Force India after an eye-catching Friday performance, even with Perez's late crash – which damaged the right-rear of the VJM09 – he was still sixth best, behind Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, the pair making the most of overnight gains from Ferrari and Red Bull.

Even so, the front runners arguably benefited from the absence of Valtteri Bottas, who was denied the chance to set a time after 'sucking up' a drain cover in the pit lane and damaging the floor of his Williams, the closely stationed marshals also lucky not to be hurt either.

Max Verstappen was seventh fastest in the second of the Red Bulls, ahead of top McLaren Jenson Button, Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen, the Finn completing 16 laps despite reporting engine problems early on in the hour-long session.

Though the tricky Azerbaijan circuit continued to catch out drivers under braking, there were no major incidents beyond Perez's costly crash.
by Ollie Barstow

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