British Grand Prix – The final practice session ahead of the race at Silverstone saw Mercedes & Ferrari separated by just 0.032 seconds.
The track temperature heading into FP3 was lower than we’ve seen at any point so far over this weekend, with grey skies and rain a threat hanging in the air. With the official weather forecast suggesting rain, and the teams supplied with an extra set of Intermediate tyres to compensate, it was quite a busy start to the session with many of the drivers heading straight out to get some running in on the dry track.
Early times from the two Mercedes drivers saw both Lewis Hamilton & Valtteri Bottas top the times, before Hamilton strapped on a fresh set of SuperSofts. Having messed up his flying lap on the same compound in FP2, it was the first truly representative time we’ve seen from Hamilton all weekend, and he duly delivered a 1:28.063 – the fastest time in the session, and the fastest time ever seen at this layout of the Silverstone circuit. With Bottas 0.074 seconds behind on the same tyre, it appeared Ferrari were unable to match the Mercs, having spent most of the weekend around half a second off the ultimate pace.
However, with half an hour to go, Sebastian Vettel put on a fresh set of SuperSofts and promptly delivered a 1:28.095 to go just 0.032 slower than Hamilton. Vettel’s time included a small error at Stowe, running slightly wide over the kerb as he exited the corner, suggesting that the Ferrari man could have gone quicker. This time suggests Ferrari may be able to match Mercedes on single lap pace, and sets up a titanic qualifying battle between the two championship leaders.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 15, 2017
Valtteri Bottas finished P3 and less than a tenth off his teammate’s time, with Kimi Raikkonen P4 in the second Ferrari. The Finn finished 0.6 seconds down on the leading trio, but 0.8 clear of P5 Nico Hulkenberg. The Renault man was impressive in FP3, having highlighted on Friday that Renault appear to have good single lap pace here. It was a time good enough to leave the German driver clear of the Renault-powered Red Bulls; Daniel Ricciardo finishing P6, and Max Verstappen P8. They were split by the Haas of Romain Grosjean, who continued to impress following a strong showing in Friday practice. Felipe Massa finished the hour long practice P9 for Williams, with Stoffel Vandoorne rounding out the top ten for McLaren.
The forecasted rain started to spit down with twenty minutes remaining in the session, curtailing running. With all the drivers peeling back to the pits on their slick tyres, only Max Verstappen made an error and ran wide at the end of the Hangar Straight but was able to get back to the pits without any further issue. The track was empty for about ten minutes, before most of the field came back out on Intermediates with two minutes remaining. With grip quite low on the cold and damp track, Daniel Ricciardo was caught out in the conditions and spin leaving the final corner and was lucky to avoid hitting the pit wall. Marcus Ericsson also spun his Sauber when he dropped it under braking into Vale.
Outside the top ten, Fernando Alonso finished P11 for McLaren, ahead of Esteban Ocon’s Force India. Kevin Magnussen was P13 in his Haas, while Jolyon Palmer was P14 in the second Renault. Sergio Perez was P15 in the second Force India, and Daniil Kvyat P16 for Toro Rosso. Teammate Carlos Sainz was just behind him in P17, and the two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein & Marcus Ericsson P18 & P19 respectively. Lance Stroll was at the very bottom, 3.2 seconds off the front in the Williams.
Qualifying gets underway at 1pm local time.