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Sunday July 23rd, 2017 2:47AM

Verstappen fastest in 3rd and final practice at Bahrain GP

By The Associated Press
  Contact Editor

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) — Max Verstappen posted the fastest time ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the third and final practice session at the Bahrain Grand Prix ahead of qualifying later Saturday.

The 19-year-old Red Bull driver, who secured his eighth career podium in China last weekend, finished .110 ahead of Hamilton's Mercedes — although the three-time F1 champion may have been holding back some speed for qualifying.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who had the best time in both of Friday's practice sessions, was .556 behind Verstappen in third.

Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was fourth ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

Later Saturday, Hamilton was looking for his third straight pole position of the season after going quickest in Australia and China.

He is level at the top of the championship standings with Vettel. In an exciting start to the season, both have one win and one second-place finish each, with Vettel winning in Melbourne and Hamilton taking the checkered flag in Shanghai.

Although not as hot as Friday, drivers still had to deal with track temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit) on the sweltering hot circuit located in the desert.

The session was briefly halted some 20 minutes from the end after Haas driver Romain Grosjean spun across the track and into the barriers, damaging his car's front wing. After quick repairs, the Frenchman had the car back on track for the final few minutes.

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