FP3 - Ferrari match Mercedes in rain-hit Silverstone session
Just 0.074s covered Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes and Ferrari remained neck and neck in Saturday morning’s final practice for the 2017 Formula 1 Rolex British Grand Prix. Their best times came before rain set in at Silverstone around 40 minutes into the hour.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in the second Ferrari, while Nico Hulkenberg proved his Friday pace was no fluke as he took fifth for Renault.
Daniel Ricciardo, who like Bottas has a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change, finished sixth for Red Bull, separated from team mate Max Verstappen by Haas’s Romain Grosjean. Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne completed the top ten.
The session began under a dark sky, and saw Hamilton and Bottas resuming their fight from yesterday. Hamilton set the ball rolling with 1m 29.544s on soft tyres before Bottas trimmed that to 1m 29.393s, as Raikkonen used supersofts for 1m 29.897s in his Ferrari. Hamilton then cut down to 1m 29.069s, again on softs, before Bottas replied with 1m 28.827s and Raikkonen improved to 1m 29.395s. When Hamilton improved to 1m 28.747s, however, Bottas did not have a reply.
Hamilton finally set the benchmark at 1m 28.063s on supersofts, with Bottas next on 1m 28.214s on similar rubber, before the already supersoft-shod Vettel pushed between them with 1m 28.095s. Subsequently, Bottas improved to 1m 28.137s, Raikkonen to 1m 28.732s.
Behind this quartet, Hulkenberg sprang suddenly up to fifth in a big boost for Renault on 1m 29.480s, leaving the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Verstappen in sixth and seventh places on 1m 29.612s and 1m 29.904s respectively. The Australian did his time on supersofts, but by the time the Dutchman got going on them it was raining. Just before Verstappen ran, however, Grosjean pushed his Haas to seventh with 1m 29.819s.
When rain fell in the final 20 minutes it gave teams a belated chance to sample Pirelli’s intermediate tyres, which had previously only done a lap or two all season. Vandoorne was for a while the only man to venture out, but when they did both Ricciardo and Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson spun at Club.
Ferrari’s jump in performance will come as a relief for the Italian squad after yesterday’s gap to Mercedes, and sets up a great battle for qualifying this afternoon.