F1 | Spanish GP | FP3 | Sainz leads Norris and Leclerc in final practice; top 5 separated by just 0.151s

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari HP
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Final practice for the 2024 Spanish GP got underway in sunny conditions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, as drivers and teams started to make their final preparatiojs ahead of an all important qualifying session on a circuit that’s notoriously difficult to overtake at.

An interesting pattern in the first 20 minutes of the session was drivers asking for more knee protection, as both Lance Stroll and George Russell requested knee pads to their respective teams.

Pole-sitter last time out in Canada, Russell led the way after the initial qualifying simulation laps of the session, setting a 1:13.431 on the soft tyres, which put him just over a tenth of a second clear of Lando Norris’s McLaren, followed very closely by both Ferrari cars of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.

Leclerc praised Ferrari’s overnight set-up work, saying over the radio that there was a “good steep forward” in terms of balance.

After leading FP2 yesterday, Hamilton had a more difficult time in his first runs on Saturday, only fifth-fastest, nearly half-a-second back from Russell’s benchmark.

Completing the top 10 were Verstappen, Ocon, Piastri, Gasly, Albon and Bottas.

Aston Martin sent both its cars out on medium tyres as the session approached its halfway mark, but home hero Fernando Alonso and Stroll could only manage 12th and 16th respectively, as the Silverstone squad continued to struggle around this circuit.

There was a bit of a lull at the halfway point, as teams and drivers switched focus back to long-runs and race preparation again.

After the steady moments on track, McLaren sent Oscar Piastri out for his second run on a new set of soft tyres, but the Australian had to abort his laps twice after snap of oversteer costing him some time and momentum.

Lando Norris also aborted his first lap, but was able to set a 1:13.043 second time around to go fastest overall on his soft tyres, putting him three-and-a-half tenths clear of Russell. Piastri continued to struggle, running wide before the penultimate corner  and into the gravel, continuing a worrying trend since the start of his run of not getting a single lap together.

Lewis Hamilton’s second run got him up to second place, after having set the fastest middle sector, time dropped away from him in the final sector as he dipped a wheel in the gravel out of turn 12, and he ended up 0.316s behind Norris’ earlier lap.

After his fast lap, Hamilton found himself at wars with Lance Stroll, as he impeded the Canadian’s lap, and as the pair argued over the incident, their cars lightly touched.

His team-mate George Russell also couldn’t topple Norris, slotting in just 0.121s back from his fellow Briton.

Ferrari showed its hand at the final runs, with home favourite Carlos Sainz going fastest overall with a 1:13.013, three hundredths clear of Norris, and Leclerc close behind, just a further 0.007s behind the McLaren.

Max Verstappen couldn’t top the trio, slotting into fourth just 0.074s back from the Spaniard in what proved to be an incredibly close top 5, separated by just 0.151s from first to fifth.

With tyres good enough for a single fast lap, drivers couldn’t improve in their second runs on the same set of tyres.

Leclerc and Norris got a bit too close together, touching wheels in an incident similar to Stroll and Hamilton earlier, with Leclerc heavily touching the McLaren in what seemed an intentional touch.

The stewards will be looking at the incidents at the end of the session.