F1 Spanish GP: Sainz leads Norris, Leclerc in FP3

Carlos Sainz closed out Formula 1 free practice at the Spanish Grand Prix with the best time in FP3, ahead of Lando Norris by 0.03o seconds.

Sainz managed to beat Norris' soft-tyre benchmark in the final flurry of qualifying simulations, doing what the Mercedes duo and Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc could not.

A slow start to the session ensured that Lewis Hamilton had the circuit to himself in the opening five minutes, which he used to set the soft-tyre benchmark with a 1m14.178s - almost a second shy of his FP2 headliner.

He brought this down to a 1m13.865s shortly after Max Verstappen had set a 1m14.237s on mediums, but had to cede the advantage when George Russell punched in a 1m13.431s time to go fastest.

The two Mercedes were split by the Ferrari drivers; Sainz went up to second, just a tenth shy of Russell's lap, and Leclerc was a mere three-hundredths away from his team-mate after missing the bulk of FP2.

Norris then elbowed his way between Russell and the Ferraris on a lap with mediums, 0.001s clear of Sainz's previous lap. McLaren's preparation ahead of FP3 was almost derailed by a fire in its motorhome, but both drivers were able to take to the circuit with minimal loss in track time.

This early order-shuffling ended with a series of longer runs, ahead of a late-session tombola instigated by the final flying runs in preparation for qualifying.

Both McLaren drivers backed out of their initial flyers, Norris aborting his lap through Turn 7 and Piastri doing so before Turn 3, but Norris went again to claim a 1m13.043s on his next attempt.

f1 spanish gp: sainz leads norris, leclerc in fp3

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

The Mercedes drivers found improvement and Hamilton clinched a purple middle sector, but a few snaps of oversteer cost him three tenths at the end of the lap. Russell, for his part, put in a time that was just 0.121s shy of Norris' effort.

Sainz overturned Norris' time, however, and punched in a 1m13.013s to put his Ferrari top. This looked set to be eclipsed by Charles Leclerc, but a slight wide moment at Turn 11 took some of the sting out of his lap and put him third - a mere 0.037s shy of Sainz's time.

Norris preserved second as there were no further improvements, although had a contretemps with Leclerc at the end of the session as the Monegasque cut across a slow Norris into Turn 6 and the two made contact, which will be investigated by the stewards.

Verstappen and Russell were fourth and fifth fastest, while sixth-placed Hamilton had his own contact at the end of the first sector with Lance Stroll.

Hamilton seemed to impede Stroll slightly and attempted to back out at Turn 5 to let the Aston through, but Stroll appeared to wash out mid-corner and took a swipe at the Mercedes driver, with the incident also under investigation.

Sergio Perez, who carries a grid penalty into qualifying, was seventh fastest, just 0.03s ahead of Williams' Alex Albon. Fernando Alonso and Piastri completed the top 10.

F1 Spanish GP - FP3 result

 

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