FP3: Hamilton half a second clear of Leclerc, as Russell ends session in wall
Mercedes continued their dominance of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend on Saturday morning, with Lewis Hamilton leading the final session before qualifying by over half a second from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, with Valtteri Bottas third and Sebastian Vettel fourth.
With the bright sunshine of Friday replaced by muggy, overbearing clouds and a threat of rain (which ultimately never materialised), the cars headed out onto a track that was some 11 degrees cooler than it had been at the start of FP2.
You’d have expected drivers to struggle early on in those colder conditions, and so it proved. Vettel spun his Ferrari on the entry to Turn 14 early in the session, while Hamilton had to catch a big snap of oversteer through the final corner. Then, 20 minutes in, Bottas lost the rear of his Mercedes mid-corner at Turn 5 and backed the W10 into the gravel. “****… I’m stuck,” the Finn growled over the radio, as the red flags were flown.
After a break of just six minutes, the session restarted, with Hamilton using his Mercedes to become the only driver of the weekend to post a sub 1m 17s lap – and a comfortable 1m 16.568s to boot.
FORMULA 1 EMIRATES GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA 2019
Practice 3 results
|1 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes||1:16.568|
|2 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.531s|
|3 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes||+0.555s|
|4 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari||+0.604s|
|5 Romain Grosjean GRO Haas F1 Team||+0.624s|
Behind the leading Ferraris and Mercedes, Haas will have been delighted to see their drivers in fifth and sixth, Romain Grosjean’s leading time for the team just 0.624s behind Hamilton’s front-running pace, while Kevin Magnussen was able to post a time some three one-hundreths quicker than Max Verstappen managed in the lead Red Bull. It seems that the American team’s desire to play with Red Bull in qualifying could actually come to pass…
Rivals Renault believed after Friday’s running that they had a car that could make Q3, but they’ll need to find a bit of performance between now and qualifying if that's the case, with Nico Hulkenberg’s best time only good enough for P12, over three-tenths adrift of Carlos Sainz’s 10th place time for McLaren.
Williams occupied their now-traditional ‘final row’ positions, but there was a rare mistake from rookie George Russell, who backed his FW42 into the barriers at Turn 4 with four minutes of the session left to go, bringing out the red flags for the second time, and the session ending under them.
Ferrari wanted to use the Spanish Grand Prix weekend to get back on terms with Mercedes. But ahead of qualifying, it appears the cars in red could be set for another humbling experience at the hands of their rivals.