Spanish Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will go into Saturday qualifying as clear favourite for pole position after finishing emphatically fastest in final practice.
With track and air temperatures dropping ahead of the final practice session, grip appeared to be lacking on the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya as FP3 began. Sebastian Vettel was an early spinner, as he lost the rear of his Ferrari after five laps on the Soft tyre. Entering the chicane, the rear of his car came around and he faced the wrong direction for a few seconds before spinning back around and resuming.
Shortly after, and it was a Mercedes driver’s turn to do the same. Valtteri Bottas, heading out on track armed with Medium tyres, spun leaving Turn 5 and beached himself in the gravel. This resulted in a relatively lengthy red flag period while his car was recovered and brought back to the pits.
While Bottas was running back to the pits to get his session restarted, teammate Lewis Hamilton appeared to be in complete control. Early Soft tyre times by the Ferrari drivers were easily eclipse by Hamilton’s initial Medium tyre run, leaving him half a second clear of either of the Scuderia’s drivers.
Ferrari did raise their pace when the session resumed, with Charles Leclerc putting in a 1:17.0 on the Soft tyre to go fastest, with Vettel a tenth off his teammate. However, Hamilton then headed out on the Soft tyre and laid down an emphatic 1:16.568 to go a full half second clear of the Ferraris in what appeared to be a very emphatic victory in a straight head to head, although it remains to be seen whether either team is still holding anything back.
With Hamilton half a second clear of Leclerc, it was Valtteri Bottas who made up for his error by placing P3. He was still half a second shy of Hamilton on the same tyre, while Vettel had to settle for P4 and a tenth behind his teammate. Intriguingly, his best time was just 0.020 clear of the Haas of Romain Grosjean as the Ferrari customer team seemed able to closely match the factory team.
Kevin Magnussen placed P6, a further three tenths behind his teammate. The Friday battle between Haas & Red Bull appears set to continue, as it was Max Verstappen up next in P7 with a time 0.028 behind Magnussen’s. Alex Albon was an impressive P8 for Toro Rosso, just ahead of Alfa’s Kimi Raikkonen in P9. Carlos Sainz, now running the updated Spec 2 Renault power unit in his McLaren, placed P10.
Daniil Kvyat was P11 in the other Toro Rosso, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault – he being another beneficiary of the rollout on Saturday of Renault’s new upgraded engine. Sergio Perez placed P13 for Racing Point, Pierre Gasly P14 for Red Bull and Lance Stroll P15 in the second Racing Point.
The bottom five was made up of Alfa’s Antonio Giovinazzi, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren’s Lando Norris, and the two Williams of George Russell & Robert Kubica. Russell brought out the red flags with three minutes remaining in FP3, losing the rear of his FW42 into Turn 4 and going off backwards into the barriers. He was uninjured.