Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton continued to set the pace in Barcelona, topping the timesheet in final practice ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, as Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley brought he session to an early end with a heavy crash.
With only a few minutes remaining in the session, Hartley got on the dirt beyond the kerb on the entry to the fast Turn 9 and his Toro Rosso immediately swapped end, sending him backwards across the gravel trap and hard into the barriers.
While Hartley reported himself unhurt ahead of a visit to the medical centre, his car was severely damaged. The situation was made worse when the during recovery the entire rear sheared off.
Red flags were immediately shown and that froze the order, with Hamilton at the top of the timesheet following a qualifying sim that netted him a time of 1:17.281.
The Briton had set the lap with just under 20 minutes remaining. He and team-mate Bottas had earlier led the way in the longer runs, but using soft compound Pirellis, as Ferrari’s supersoft programme saw Vettel take third ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen. Red Bull meanwhile spent the first half hour on medium compound tyres with Daniel Ricciardo posting a time of 1:18.631, 0.787 down on Hamilton’s soft tyre tume, to slot into fifth place ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen.
Verstappen might have been further up the order but after his first run he returned to the Red Bull garage with an electrical issue. He would take no further part in the session.
When the switch to quali sims arrived soon after the halfway mark, Ferrari initially led the way, with Vettel ahead of Räikkönen, but Bottas then bolted on the red-banded tyres and took P1, with Hamilton swiftly usurping his team-mate but by the slim margin of 0.013s.
Vettel finished 0.269 behind Hamilton and just three hundredths of a second ahead of Räikkönen in another tight intra-team battle at the top of the leaderboard.
Fifth place was taken by Ricciardo. The Australian appeared to struggle for a good feeling on the supersofts and after a couple of warm-up laps he finally went for a time, posting a lap of 1:17.981, 0.7s behind Hamilton.
Ricciardo was the last man inside a second of the champion, with Kevin Magnussen in sixth place but 1.076s behind Hamilton. The Dane was a healthy 0.349s ahead of seventh-placed t4eam-mate Romain Grosjean.
Carlos Sainz took eighth place in the works Renault, while fellow Spaniard led the French manufacturer’s customers squads, taking ninth place just over six hundredths of a second behind Sainz. Pierre Gasly of Toro Rosso was tenth, 1.605s behind Hamilton.
2018 Spanish Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 15 1:17.281
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 19 1:17.294 0.013
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 16 1:17.550 0.269
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 17 1:17.581 0.300
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 16 1:17.981 0.700
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas 15 1:18.357 1.076
7 Romain Grosjean Haas 16 1:18.706 1.425
8 Carlos Sainz Renault 16 1:18.783 1.502
9 Fernando Alonso McLaren 14 1:18.847 1.566
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 17 1:18.886 1.605
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 16 1:18.905 1.624
12 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 5 1:19.013 1.732
13 Esteban Ocon Force India 20 1:19.121 1.840
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 17 1:19.236 1.955
15 Charles Leclerc Sauber 19 1:19.292 2.011
16 Sergio Perez Force India 17 1:19.376 2.095
17 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 23 1:19.428 2.147
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 17 1:19.744 2.463
19 Lance Stroll Williams 15 1:19.900 2.619
20 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 13 1:19.909 2.628