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FP3: Sainz leads Norris and Leclerc during ultra-close final practice in Barcelona

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 21: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving (55) the Ferrari SF-24 on track during

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz set the pace during Saturday’s third and final practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix, leading the way from McLaren rival Lando Norris and team mate Charles Leclerc.

After an ultra-close FP2, which saw five different teams fill the top five positions on the timesheets, drivers returned to the track at 1230 local time on Saturday to make their final preparations for the all-important qualifying session.

PRACTICE DEBRIEF: Why three – or even four – teams could be fighting for pole and victory in Barcelona

Indeed, from the 33 Grands Prix held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya since its arrival in 1991, a whopping 30 have been won from the front row of the grid, meaning those one-lap runs will take on even greater importance later this afternoon.

All three of Pirelli’s tyre compound selections – the soft C3, medium C2 and hard C1 – were in play over the first half of the session, with Mercedes’ George Russell setting the early benchmark via a time of 1m 13.431s on the red-marked rubber.

Spain 2024

Practice 3 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1SAI1:13.013
2NOR+0.03s
3LEC+0.037s
4VER+0.074s
5RUS+0.151s
View Full Results

When the final qualifying simulations came in, all on the soft tyres, it was Sainz who topped the times with an impressive 1m 13.013s, though he was mere hundredths clear of Norris on a 1m 13.043s and Leclerc on a 1m 13.050s.

Continuing the ultra-close theme, reigning world champion Max Verstappen wound up fourth on a 1m 13.087s, with Russell slipping back a few spots but still ensuring that the top five drivers were covered by just one tenth of a second.

READ MORE: Alunni Bravi reflects on Sainz’s prospects as he explains Kick Sauber's position on 2025 seat options

Russell’s team mate, Lewis Hamilton, was a couple of tenths further back, having had a strange incident with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at Turn 5 – the two cars rubbing bodywork at the apex and the seven-time world champion admitting “I didn’t see him, my bad”.

There was further wheel-banging after the chequered flag had dropped and drivers made their way back to the pits, including contact between Leclerc and Norris that left the latter complaining about suspected car damage.

2024 Spanish GP FP3: Bizarre moment sees Leclerc clip Norris in final moments of practice

Braced for his three-place grid penalty carried into this weekend, Sergio Perez placed seventh in the second of the Red Bulls, while Alex Albon and Fernando Alonso enjoyed stronger sessions to put Williams and Aston Martin inside the top-10 positions.

Oscar Piastri could not quite match the pace of team mate Norris en route to 10th, with the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly slipping back to P11 and P12 respectively, from Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Valtteri Bottas (Kick Sauber) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas).

READ MORE: Wolff shares latest on Antonelli’s F1 prospects after FIA tweak Super Licence regulations

RB continued their efforts to get to grips with a massive update package en route to 16th and 18th with Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda, who were split by Stroll, while the other Kick Sauber and Williams machines of Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant brought up the rear.

Drivers and teams will now regroup in the paddock, dig through the data and turn their attentions to qualifying, which is set to begin at 1600 local time. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can follow the action.

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