Lewis Hamilton led the final practice session ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix while Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen was 0.25 seconds off his former title rival.
With the introduction of alternative tire allocation for this round, which limits teams from 13 sets of tires per weekend to 11, teams looked to use FP3 as a preparation for each phase of qualifying.
This resulted in absolute times across the range of compounds rather than just running soft tires in preparation for the hot lap.
Track temperatures of 45°C and above also initially made it harder for the drivers to beat their FP2 times as the track surface had cooled from previous rains, although an overnight downpour on Friday had worn away the rubber covering on the Hungaroring surface.
Daniel Ricciardo set the first timed lap of the session but his leader was quickly beaten by Kevin Magnussen’s 1’20.454, who in turn was usurped by Sergio Perez’s first lap on a set of used mediums.
Verstappen then bested his team-mate by a time of 1’18.478s after fitting a new set of medium tires as the Dutchman only used soft tires in Friday’s FP2.
This survived a number of runs on soft tires as Oscar Piastri’s time of 1’18.949 was not enough to beat either Red Bulls, despite having the best middle sector.
Piastri’s run was completed on new soft tyres, while the final laps of teammate Lando Norris and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were already used sets.
Alfa Romeo duo Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu continued their impressive pace from the second practice session and then shared the two Red Bulls on fresh soft tyres, with Bottas coming within 0.011s of Verstappen’s benchmark after completing the first third of the session.
Then Norris found some more life in his used soft tires, pushing past Perez into fourth place as the Mexican complained of struggling to cool the tires on the muggy tarmac.
With Verstappen in the lead for well over half an hour, Fernando Alonso replaced him with a lap on new soft tires to finish in a time of 1m18.350s, just 0.128s ahead of the reigning champions’ time.
The Spaniard was allowed more than five minutes at the top of the pile until Norris then used a new set of medium tires and beat Alonso’s time by 0.268s, waving the rear of his McLaren MCL60 as he crossed the finish line.
As the session moved into the final quarter, the Mercedes duo began driving on the soft tyres. George Russell’s attempt was punctuated by a few weak moments and ended up in third place, but Hamilton sped to a series of purple sectors and stormed to the top with a time of 1’17.811s.
Verstappen then attempted to beat his 2021 title rival on new soft tires but found himself a quarter of a second off Hamilton’s benchmark – and complained of a lack of grip, despite still finishing second. Perez then jumped to third place, 0.013s behind his teammate.
The Ferrari duo, who had spent most of practice at the bottom of the timesheets after focusing on long, middle heats, then tried to move to the front – but lost time beyond their strong first sectors and moved up to sixth and seventh.
Nico Hulkenberg then beat both factory Ferraris to move up to fourth place, while Magnussen’s best first sector wasn’t enough to propel him into the top half of the timesheets.
Perez tried late to break between Hamilton and Verstappen at the front but was 0.006s off his teammate’s time and stayed third ahead of Hulkenberg.
Norris’ previous performance was enough for fifth, ahead of Russell, Leclerc and Sainz in the top eight. Alonso’s previous leader took him ninth overall, beating Bottas’ time, while Lance Stroll separated the Alfa Romeos to finish 11th ahead of Zhou.
The top 16 were all within a second, with Logan Sargeant just 0.003s outside of that margin in 17th.
Ricciardo passed his teammate Yuki Tsunoda by three tenths, with the two split by Ocon at the bottom of the timesheets.