Mercedes on form as Leclerc pips Verstappen in final practice

Charles Leclerc

Charles Leclerc was fastest in final practice for the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix in a session that saw Mercedes encouragingly on the pace.

Max Verstappen was just 0.072s down on the championship leader while George Russell was third and Lewis Hamilton fourth, the pair maintaining the pace they’d enjoyed on Friday.

Sporting a new chassis after running over the kerbing at Turn 9 in Free Practice 2, Lando Norris was the first car out on track.

Rather than completing a shakedown lap and returning to the pits, the Brit stayed out and immediately began working through his programme. He logged a 1:23.641s to becomes the first time on the board.

At Scuderia AlphaTauri Pierre Gasly climbed out of his car in the garage after his car began smoking following a shakedown lap.

It was, as has become customary, a slow start to the session, with only half the field heading out inside the opening 10 minutes.

Both Ferrari and Red Bull kept their powder dry in the opening moments, Verstappen not even in his car 13 minutes into the hit out.

A brake issue for Mick Schumacher saw the Haas driver return to the pits with the right-rear ablaze.

It was promptly extinguished though not without extensive damage having been done to the back of the German’s car.

Sainz went fastest with his first meaningful lap, a 1:20.484s with a set of soft compound tyres fitted, 0.8s clear of second-best Valtteri Bottas.

That was bumped to second fastest when Leclerc completed his first lap, 0.206s faster at 1:20.278s.

Russell went third best with a 1:21.129s while Lewis Hamilton was off that pace, the deficit explained by a faulty DRS on his car.

Sergio Perez was the first of the two Red Bull drivers to take to the circuit, a modest 1:21.518s leaving him seventh best with 25 minutes gone.

It was only at that point that Verstappen headed out of the lane, the last driver to do so.

At AlphaTauri, the team diagnosed Gasly’s issues as a faulty heat shield in the engine bay, which resulted in a number of components overheating – and causing an oil leak that ended his session.

Perez improved on his second flying lap, rising to third best 0.263s behind Leclerc as he battled a car with a nervous rear end.

Verstappen managed a 1:20.475s on his first timed attempt, slotting into second, 0.197s off the outright pace.

The Dutchman had been fastest through the first split but lost almost 0.4s through middle of the lap to end it down on his title rival.

Shortly after the halfway point, Hamilton returned to the track with the DRS issue resolved on his Mercedes.

He moved up to sixth with his first timed lap, a 1:21.170s versus the 1:21.013s set by Russell earlier in the session.

Encouraging, the pair seemed to enjoy similar pace to what was seen on Friday, without the obvious porpoising that has blighted the F1 W13 throughout the season to date.

The Ferraris returned to the top of the timesheets when both Sainz and Leclerc improved, the former to 1:20.129s and the latter 1:19.772s as Verstappen was demoted to a distant third.

Kevin Magnussen sat an impressive fifth inside the final 20 minutes, with Bottas next up and then the two Mercedes.

Hamilton had improved to usurp his team-mate, though Russell responded with a new personal best to record a 1:19.920s to rise to second best, 0.148s down on Leclerc.

With 10 minutes remaining, Verstappen setting a time which moved him back to third best, followed soon after across the line by Hamilton who improved to fourth fastest.

McLaren only began to show its hand in the final minutes of the session, having sat 16th and 17th fastest inside the final six minutes.

Norris rose 10 places to seventh with a 1:20.403 on the soft compound rubber, placing him on the coat tails of the leading three teams, and ahead of Magnussen.

Ricciardo could only muster the 11th fastest time with his push lap, a 1:20.910s for the Australian some 0.5s slower than his McLaren team-mate.

The session ended with Leclerc fastest from Verstappen, Russell, and Hamilton in a tantalising suggestion of what might follow in qualifying.

Just 0.4s covered the top six, with Norris 0.6s off the outright pace in seventh over Magnussen, Bottas, and Esteban Ocon rounding out the top 10.

Qualifying follows next, beginning at midnight AEST.

Results: Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix, Free Practice 3

Pos Num Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 22 1:19.772
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 11 1:19.844 +0.072s
3 63 George Russell Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 15 1:19.920 +0.148s
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG F1 Team 17 1:20.002 +0.230s
5 55 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Ferrari 22 1:20.129 +0.357s
6 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 18 1:20.260 +0.488s
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 17 1:20.403 +0.631s
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 1:20.646 +0.874s
9 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo F1 Team 23 1:20.781 +1.009s
10 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team 17 1:20.882 +1.110s
11 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team 16 1:20.910 +1.138s
12 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin F1 Team 23 1:20.944 +1.172s
13 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team 16 1:20.981 +1.209s
14 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo F1 Team 18 1:21.201 +1.429s
15 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri 21 1:21.449 +1.677s
16 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin F1 Team 22 1:21.520 +1.748s
17 23 Alex Albon Williams Racing 17 1:21.572 +1.800s
18 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing 17 1:22.419 +2.647s
19 47 Mick Schumacher Haas F1 Team 4 1:25.467 +5.695s
20 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri 1

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