Lewis Hamilton edged out Valtteri Bottas in final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix in a session brought to a slightly early end by a high-speed crash for Brendon Hartley.
The Toro Rosso driver lost control on the entry to Turn 9 having dropped two wheels onto the grass, spinning and heading backward into the barrier on the outside of the flat-out corner. While Hartley confirmed he was OK, the car was heavily damaged and the resulting red flag brought an end to the session with two minutes remaining.
As the car was recovered by a crane, the gearbox fell off the back of the chassis. Toro Rosso likely to need a whole new chassis and power unit which is expected to rule Hartley out of qualifying.
Before that incident, Hamilton had gone fastest with a 1m17.281s to lead teammate Bottas by just 0.013s, with Sebastian Vettel in third place some 0.269s adrift of Hamilton. After struggling with the tires on Friday, all of the field bar Max Verstappen set their best times on the supersoft compound, with Kimi Raikkonen in fourth exactly 0.3s off Hamiton.
Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for Red Bull but 0.7s off the pace as the team endured a somewhat difficult session, with Verstappen spending much of his time in the garage and finishing in 12th place.
Verstappen ran wide at Turn 1 early on and then cut Turn 2, but didn’t stay to the left of the marker that shows where a driver must safely rejoin the track, leaving him under investigation from the stewards. Things then went from bad to worse for the Dutchman as an electrical issue needed investigating, with Red Bull needing to remove the floor for access and ending his session after just five laps.
Ricciardo himself was also struggling with the handing of the Red Bull at one stage as he suffered a spin exiting Turn 13, swapping ends and aborting his lap as it looked like a straight Mercedes v Ferrari fight for pole position in qualifying.
Haas impressed once again with Kevin Magnussen in sixth ahead of Romain Grosjean in seventh, although it was far from a smooth session as many drivers continued to have excursions during FP3.
Grosjean had a number of off-track moments on Friday and he once again went off late in Saturday’s session, with the Frenchman running wide at Turn 2 as he appeared to be distracted by Sergey Sirotkin ahead of him. Sirotkin’s teammate Lance Stroll also bounced through the gravel at Turn 4, losing the rear and having to stop the car before it reached the barrier before managing to rejoin. Williams again struggled, finishing all three practice sessions as the slowest two cars.
Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 in what looked like another close midfield battle for a place in Q3, with just half a second separating Grosjean in seventh and Stoffel Vandoorne in 14th – a spread including six different teams.