British Grand Prix : Charles Leclerc narrowly topped third practice for the British Grand Prix from Ferrari Formula 1 team-mate Sebastian Vettel, with Lewis Hamilton completing a top three split by just 0.049 seconds.
Leclerc left it late to post his fastest time of 1m25.905s on soft tyres on a cool, drizzly Saturday morning at Silverstone, putting him 0.026s ahead of Vettel.
The arrival of light rain a little more than 10 minutes into the session meant George Russell’s early benchmark of 1m31.810s stood for more than half an hour.
Sure, Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton will line up on the front row together, but Ferrari and Red Bull have been closer than expected and it is far from a given that the Mercedes will run away with the race.
Even if they do, there is plenty at stake.
After a strong start to the season, Bottas has had a bit of a dip in recent races. Clawing back a few points on Hamilton after the Briton’s errors in Austria was useful. But the Finn is still 31 points behind as the season reaches more or less its halfway point. So pole at Silverstone – albeit by just 0.006secs – was a decent next step.
He knows that the next few races are critical – not just because of his need to claw back some ground in the title race but because of the need to convince Mercedes boss Toto Wolff that he deserves a new contract for 2020, with rumours around Max Verstappen and Mercedes continuing to swirl as the driver market silly-season gathers pace.
But the overall picture of the race is somewhat different to two weeks ago at the Red Bull Ring. First, there is neither the heat not altitude for Mercedes to be concerned about the engine cooling which forced them to back off so much in Austria.