The current world championship leader produced a 1m31.300s on soft tyres to beat Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas to the fastest time in FP3 by a whopping 0.747s as Red Bull laid down a marker ahead of qualifying.

Bottas had exchanged fastest lap times with Verstappen earlier in the session but on the final qualifying simulation runs, it was the latter who held a clear advantage.

Carlos Sainz put his Ferrari an encouraging third - some eight-tenths down on Verstappen’s benchmark - while Sergio Perez was almost a second slower than his teammate in fourth.

Having been off the pace all day on Friday, Hamilton struggles continued in final practice with the seven-time world champion only fifth and 0.966s behind his main title rival, who holds a four-point lead in the world championship heading into this weekend’s race.

Hamilton reported that something felt fundamentally wrong with his car in FP2 following a Mercedes chassis change between its drivers at Paul Ricard, though he indicated the chassis felt no different to the last race in Baku.

Mercedes has dominated the last two French GPs but looks to have a real fight on its hands if it is to remain unbeaten at Paul Ricard this weekend since it returned to the calendar in 2018.

McLaren’s Lando Norris was sixth, while Fernando Alonso once again outpaced Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon for seventh in what marked another strong session for the French squad on home soil.

Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the rest of the top-10 order for AlphaTauri and McLaren.

Qualifying for the French Grand Prix gets underway at 3pm local time (2pm BST).

Click here for full final practice results at the 2021 F1 French Grand Prix.