Lewis Hamilton edged teammate Valtteri Bottas in final practice at the Spanish Grand Prix on another sizzling day in Barcelona.
Hamilton set a late flyer on a new set of soft tires to snatch top spot from Bottas by just 0.151s after the pair traded fastest times on the warming circuit, but the rest of the field was half a second off the pace ahead of qualifying.
The session was red flagged with two minutes remaining to collect Esteban Ocon’s crashed Renault between Turns 3 and 4.
The Frenchman was involved in a clumsy accident with Kevin Magnussen. The Dane was travelling slowly on the run down to Turn 4 and drifting towards the right of the track as the Frenchman approached him at immense speed. Apparently caught unaware, Ocon veered to the right in avoiding action but lost control of his car, slamming front-first into the concrete barrier.
The stewards will investigate the crash after the session.
With the circuit temperature hovering at around 115 degrees F and creeping upwards, setting a flying lap at the right time without too much traffic and with the right amount of tire preparation, particularly on the sensitive soft compound, was key to moving up the time sheet.
Teams were finding more than one cool-down lap between fliers was able to rejuvenate the rubber, giving several drivers more than one attempt at quick lap on used Pirellis.
Max Verstappen squeezed the most from the red-marked tire behind the Mercedes duo, the Dutchman half a second off the pace in third.
Carlos Sainz was a surprise inclusion in the top four at his home race, the McLaren driver 0.824s adrift. The Spaniard was running with a new power unit — comprising an internal combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K — to solve the mysterious cooling problems that have plagued his car since last weekend’s race at Silverstone. A new chassis couldn’t cure the issue on Friday, leading the team to try swapping the motor to cure it.
Sergio Perez, back from his COVID-19 hiatus, was fifth quickest for Racing Point and only 0.05s behind Sainz. Charles Leclerc followed for Ferrari almost a full second off the pace. The Monegasque was quick enough to better AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in seventh by 0.018s.
Lance Stroll was eighth in the second Racing Point ahead of Alex Albon in the sister Red Bull Racing machine.
Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10 for Renault, 1.1s behind the leading Mercedes and 0.2s ahead of crashed teammate Ocon.
Vettel followed for Ferrari ahead of Romain Grosjean’s Haas, the Frenchman tumbling down the order from his lofty P5 in FP2 yesterday. He was running a new internal combustion engine after a stoppage late yesterday afternoon.
Kimi Raikkonen was fractionally behind Grosjean for 14th, with Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat next in the order.
Kevin Magnussen, unscathed in his incident with Grosjean, was 12th quickest ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo and Williams pair George Russell and Nicholas Latifi