Mercedes and Hamilton top final practice as Ocon crashes
Mercedes continued its 1-2 dominance in the final practice session before qualifying for this afternoon’s Spanish Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton edging Vallteri Bottas by 0.151s.
Once again, the Mercedes pair’s closest challenger was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who inched with 0.515s of the Black Arrows, while McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was an impressive fourth.
The session was red-flagged with minutes to spare when Estben Ocon rammed into the back of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas after what appeared to be a moment of distraction or misunderstanding between the two drivers.
Spanish Grand Prix Free Practice 3 – Results
The final dress rehearsal session before this afternoon’s all-important qualifying was slow to get underway, with most drivers trodding around on installation laps.
Haas and McLaren mounted new power units overnight on Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz’s cars, the Frenchman encountering an engine issue at the end of FP2 while the papaya squad was still seeking to solve Sainz’s cooling issues.
Lando Norris was the first driver to put his head down with a fast run on the medium tyre, but Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, also on the mediums, overhauled the Briton shortly after.
But the Mercedes freight train was on its rails halfway through the session, with Bottas and Hamilton resuming their dominance, with the Finn just edging his teammate by 0.353s thanks to a lap in 1m17.971s.
However, Verstappen’s best effort on the softs had the Dutchman snapping at the Black Arrows heels with a 1m18.160s that put him within two tenths of Bottas.
As track conditions improved, so did the field’s pace. A sudden performance surge from McLaren pushed both Carlos Sainz and Norris among the top-five, with the soft-shod Spaniard achieving an impressive P2, just 0.075s shy of the leading Mercedes!
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But Bottas gave himself a little more breathing space, improving his own benchmark only for Hamilton to go top on a fresh set of softs with a 1m17.222s that reinstated a Mercedes 1-2.
Verstappen then restored more normality by reclaiming P3 in the closing stages of the session.
With two minutes to go, Ocon brought out the red flag and a premature conclusion to FP2 when the Renault charger hit the back of Magnussen’s slowing Haas.
The mishap appeared to be a case of misunderstanding between the two drivers or of distraction on the part of Ocon. Either way, it will be a race against time for the Renault crew to get the Frenchman’s car ready for qualifying.
Hamilton thus topped the session from Bottas, Verstappen and Sainz.
Racing Point left it a little later than its rivals but the end result was a P5 for Sergio Perez, with Lance Stroll down in 8th.
Leclerc concluded the session P6 while Vettel was outside of the top ten down iin 12th position.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly secured 7th while Alex Albon and Daniel ricciardo rounded off the top ten.
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