Max Verstappen will begin the hotly contested qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix as Barcelona’s fastest man after winning the last practice session ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen’s fastest time of 1: 17.835 minutes was mostly on a purple one Middle sector built. After that he was almost half a second ahead of Hamilton before a fumbled exit from the chicane reduced his advantage to 0.235 seconds.
Hamilton’s best lap also left the time on the table, similar to the chicane. The Brit should have won with his last flight lap on the soft tire, but took too much of the high yellow curb to improve his time.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, was also off in the last sector Errors affected, so that he was fifth and almost 0.6 seconds behind Red Bull Racing.
Maintaining the soft compound at maximum performance during the lap was a central topic from practice before qualifying. The sensitive compound needs to be managed in the first sector if there is enough grip to navigate the chicane at speed.
The new high speed 10-12 turns at the end of the back straight have added an extra challenge in this regard and the strain on the rubber increased in the last section of the lap.
The two Mercedes drivers parted ways with their Ferrari team-mates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, who were both only a tenth of a second apart.
Behind Bottas, McLaren’s Lando Norris pushed into them Order. The Brit made a strong recovery from an overwhelming FP2 result on Friday afternoon and drove 0.659 seconds off the pace, although his session was interrupted by a long drive through the enlarged gravel trap at the end of the back straight.
Pierre Gasly followed closely for AlphaTauri 0.041 seconds further, while Daniel Ricciardo’s second McLaren was eighth and 0.088 seconds behind his teammate.
Kimi Raikkonen finished the last practice session in ninth and three quarters of a second slower than Verstappen, although he had a puncture.Sergio Perez completed the top 10 for Red Bull Racing, the Mexican 0.771 slower than his leading teammate.
Alpine was less impressive after his strong Friday show. Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon finished 11th and 13th, separated from AlphaTauris Yuki Tsunoda.
Lance Stroll was Aston Martin’s fastest driver in 14th place, but the first on the field more than a second behind Tempo. George Russell followed for Williams in front of Antonio Giovinazzi and Sebastian Vettel in the second Aston Martin.
Nicholas Latifi was 18th for Williams in front of the Haas newbies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, the American team that has the only car more than two seconds behind the front pace.
After joining the F1 press corps for the first time in 2012 due to what he believed to be an administrative error, Michael has since made himself one of the few Australian regulars in the press room. After graduating in print journalism and later radio, he worked his way from community media to the Australian ABC grandstand as an F1 broadcaster. His voice can now be heard on the Official Australian Grand Prix Podcast, F1 Strategy Report and Box of Neutrals. Although he would prefer to be recognized for his F1 expertise, in parts of hometown Melbourne, his reputation for being sick once in a kart will forever precede him.
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