FP3: Mercedes secures Spanish practice hat-trick
Mercedes bagged the practice hat-trick for the Spanish GP, doing it with yet another 1-2 as tyre wear and seeing how far the drivers could push dominated the programme.
The session was brought to an early end when Esteban Ocon crashed his RS20 with three minutes remaining in the session.
The Frenchman had to take avoiding action when Kevin Magnussen on a slow lap moved to the centre of the track as Ocon closed in fast.
He turned right and went nose first into the wall.
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The one up down side to racing at the Barcelona circuit is, at least for the drivers, they all know the track very well. The one big down side for the fans, it all too often means a slow start to a practice session. It was just that on Saturday.
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Only three driver bothered with installation laps in the first 10 minutes of FP3, one of which was Romain Grosjean whose Haas mechanics broke curfew on Friday night to replace his engine after Friday’s power loss.
Lando Norris clocked the first time of the session, a 1:19.6 on the medium tyres, before Kimi Raikkonen on the softs went quicker, but only just as Alfa Romeo continue to struggle. Raikkonen stated prior to this weekend’s race that there is “no easy fix” and that it will take “time” for Alfa Romeo to recover.
20 minutes in and only Raikkonen, Norris and Antonio Giovinazzi had set times as the track temperature climbs to a steamy 45’C.
The Mercedes finally made their arrival with Valtteri Bottas putting in a slow out lap on the soft tyres before going quickest with a 1:17.9 with Lewis Hamilton’s first attempt putting him 0.35s down on his team-mate. Charles Leclerc, on the medium tyres, was third in the early running but almost a second down on Bottas’ P1 time.
Six laps into his run and Daniil Kvyat reported that his soft tyres “weren’t good any more”. A lap later he added that the “tyre is completely gone”.
TOP 10: HALFWAY THROUGH FP3
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Max Verstappen waited until half the session was gone before venturing out of the pits, doing so on the soft tyres and immediately going third fastest. He was half a second down.
After a slow cool down lap Verstappen put in another hot lap, improving his time and closing the gap to Bottas to 0.189s. Hamilton also improved to stay second, 0.106s behind Bottas.
Problems over at Renault as Esteban Ocon was told “that was a problem with… doesn’t matter. Box this lap please. It’s not the gearbox.”
With 20 minutes to go both Ferrari and Mercedes left the pits on fresh soft tyres. Personal bests for Sebastian Vettel saw him move up from 16th to fifth before Leclerc went from seventh to fifth, half a second up on his German team-mate.
As for Mercedes, Bottas went purple in the middle sector to lower his benchmark time to a 1:17.3. That, though, wasn’t enough to keep Hamilton at bay.
The Brit laid down a 1:17.222 to beat Bottas to P1 by 0.151s.
Nicholas Latifi had a go at Verstappen for blocking him, saying the Red Bull driver “complains about people blocking him all the time, he’s not any better”.
Traffic on his final lap meant Verstappen had to settle for third, 0.515s slower than Hamilton with Carlos Sainz fourth quickest.
Sergio Perez was P5 ahead of Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Alex Albon. Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten.
His Renault team-mate Ocon didn’t fare as well as he crashed late in the session, taking the nose off his RS20 as he tried to avoid the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:17.22212 laps
2Valtteri BottasMercedes0.151s13 laps
3Max VerstappenRed Bull0.515s10 laps
4Carlos SainzMcLaren0.824s18 laps
5Sergio PerezRacing Point0.874s16 laps
6Charles LeclercFerrari0.971s15 laps
7Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri0.989s13 laps
8Lance StrollRacing Point1.087s16 laps
9Alex AlbonRed Bull1.149s13 laps
10Daniel RicciardoRenault1.162s12 laps
11Esteban OconRenault1.380s18 laps
12Sebastian VettelFerrari1.485s15 laps
13Romain GrosjeanHaas1.488s14 laps
14Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo Racing1.499s11 laps
15Lando NorrisMcLaren1.581s23 laps
16Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri1.630s15 laps
17Kevin MagnussenHaas1.718s15 laps
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing1.953s13 laps
19George RussellWilliams2.075s16 laps
20Nicholas LatifiWilliams2.542s16 laps
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