Hamilton 0.5s clear as Bottas and Russell cause reds

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Hamilton 0.5s clear as Bottas and Russell cause reds

Formula 1

Hamilton 0.5s clear as Bottas and Russell cause reds

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Lewis Hamilton was over half a second clear of the rest of the field as Mercedes showed ominous pace in final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, but Valtteri Bottas lost track time as he caused a red flag.

Bottas spun on his out lap on medium tires, with low track temperatures clearly a factor as he swapped ends at the slow-speed Turn 5. The car only just reached the gravel but the rear tires were beached and he was unable to rejoin, prompting the red flag. The delay was short and Mercedes received the car back, so Bottas returned to action later in the session but only completed nine laps in total and ended up third fastest.

Hamilton set the pace with a 1m16.568s — the only driver to go under 1m17s — as he looked dominant in the final sector. Mercedes is clearly quicker than Ferrari in the final part of the lap, with Charles Leclerc second quickest, and nearly 0.4s of the 0.531s time difference coming in sector three.

Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest on a 1m17.172s, leaving him less than 0.1s off his teammate after a spin of his own. Vettel swapped ends on entry to the final chicane, but was able to recover and ran through the pits before rejoining the action immediately.

While Hamilton was comfortably clear, Haas was impressive once again as Romain Grosjean set the fifth fastest time and was just 0.02s off Vettel. That means Grosjean was also with 0.1s of Leclerc in second place, as the American team remains quick over one lap at a venue where it did not suffer serious tire issues during pre-season testing.

Kevin Magnussen backed up that performance in sixth place ahead of Max Verstappen, Alexander Albon, Kimi Raikkonen and Carlos Sainz. Verstappen was competitive in the first two sectors compared to Mercedes and Ferrari, but lost time towards the end of the lap and complained about an issue on the final straight.

With a lack of sunshine resulting in cooler track temperatures than Friday, drivers were able to complete a number of push laps on the softest compound tire, and plenty were improving when George Russell brought the session to a premature end.

Russell had set his best first sector of the session as the Williams looked slightly more competitive than recent races, but then lost the rear entering Turn 4 and slid backwards through the gravel, hitting the tire barrier lightly with his rear wing.

Both McLaren drivers and Nico Hulkenberg joined Daniel Ricciardo in using the updated Renault power unit in FP3, with the French manufacturer saying the update is more focused on reliability than performance. With Sainz in the top 10, Hulkenberg was 12th but both Ricciardo and Lando Norris failed to complete representative soft tire laps due to Russell’s crash and were 17th and 18th respectively.

 

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