Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the final practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix as Ferrari once again finished first and second at Spa-Francorchamps.
Already appearing to be on the back foot compared to Ferrari, Hamilton’s weekend was made even more difficult when he crashed on just his fourth lap. Hamilton lost the rear on turn-in at Turn 13 — the sweeping right-left chicane known as Les Fagnes — and had two attempts at catching the car. The first correction saw him run wide into an expansive run-off area, but then the car was still unsettled and Hamilton ran out of space with little grip, hitting the brakes late but burying the left-front corner in the tire barrier.
The session was red flagged as Hamilton’s car was removed and the barrier repaired, with significant damage leaving Mercedes with a race against time to prepare the car for qualifying. While the championship leader should be fine to take part in Q1 — he did not need to visit the medical center — it remains to be seen if his gearbox needs replacing, which would carry a grid penalty. Initially, the team didn’t expect that will be necessary:
Hamilton’s crash will still have been a welcome sight for Ferrari as Mercedes appeared closer in the final practice session than at any stage this weekend. Charles Leclerc again set the pace with a 1m44.206s, with Sebastian Vettel 0.451s off his teammate, but Valtteri Bottas was only 0.046s adrift of Vettel at the end of FP3.
The red flag period interrupted the run plans for all the teams and led to different schedules, with Daniel Ricciardo the only other driver to get within a second of the Ferraris. Ricciardo was fourth quickest on a 1m44.974s, leaving him 0.4s clear of Max Verstappen in the lead Red Bull.
Verstappen was clearly unhappy as he complained of brake balance problems — saying it was very easy to lock the inside wheel — and also voicing his dissatisfaction at traffic on his final soft tire run as he eventually aborted his lap.
Sergio Perez was sixth for Racing Point despite reverting to an older specification Mercedes power unit after a problem in FP2, finished ahead of Hamilton, the Alfa Romeo pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi and Pierre Gasly in 10th.
Although showing solid pace, Gasly had a strange issue when he lost the glass from his left wing mirror early in the session. The glass fell out as he approached Pouhon and left the Frenchman relying on team radio for traffic updates as he completed his run.
Gasly was nearly a second clear of teammate Daniil Kvyat as the Russian focused on race pace with a back of the grid start for power unit penalties confirmed. Kvyat also took a new gearbox ahead of FP3 as a result.
Alexander Albon similarly only carried out high fuel running in the final session due to his grid penalty and was over six seconds off the overall pace, finishing slowest behind the Williams cars.