Lewis Hamilton will head into qualifying for the British Grand Prix with the upper hand after pipping Kimi Raikkonen by the smallest of margins in final practice. But the session will be remembered for Brendon Hartley’s high-speed crash, caused when the Toro Rosso driver suffered a suspension failure.
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Mercedes and Ferrari tussled on Friday, and that theme continued on Saturday morning with the former edging into a slender lead. Hamilton, searching for a record sixth triumph at this Grand Prix this weekend, finished just 0.093 ahead of his Ferrari rival, with the second Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas sixth tenths behind his team mate.
Fourth-placed Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, in the sister Ferrari, was limited to just eight laps, with his team suggesting the German had an issue with his neck.
However, it was Hartley who managed the fewest laps of all when he suffered a high-speed shunt with less than 15 minutes on the clock. The New Zealander crashed into the barriers at the end of the 200 mph Wellington Straight after his suspension failed, but such are the safety standards on modern F1 machinery he was able to walk away unscathed.
With so much damage to his car it does, however, seem unlikely that Toro Rosso will either be able to provide repairs or build up a new chassis in time for Hartley to take part in qualifying.
The incident also limited team mate’s Pierre Gasly’s running, with the Frenchman getting just four laps under his belt as the team worked to understand why Hartley’s car failed.
Red Bull had a difficult Friday, after Max Verstappen crashed out of FP2, and they appear to be quite some way off the pace ahead of qualifying. Verstappen had to settle for fifth, 1.290s behind Hamilton while Daniel Ricciardo finished down in sixth.
While it was a session to forget for Toro Rosso, Sauber will be buoyant, and rightly so, as Charles Leclerc finished in an impressive seventh place ahead of the sister C37 of Marcus Ericsson in 10th.
Splitting the Swiss team were the Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, who got some important miles under his belt after missing FP2 yesterday due to his opening-practice shunt.
So Hamilton tops the timesheet for the second time this weekend, a confidence-boost ahead of what looks like it will be a fiercely battled qualifying…