Four-time British Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton went quickest in final practice at Silverstone, edging championship leader Sebastian Vettel by just three hundredths of a second in a session that ended with rain falling across the Northamptonshire circuit.
In advance of the session race control reported that there was an 80% chance of rain across the 60 minutes of running and the risk of precipitation meant that unlike many FP3 sessions the front runners were on track early as they attempted to get last minute set-up work and quali sims completed before any rain arrived.
Austrian Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas led the way in the early minutes with the Mercedes driver, who tomorrow will take a five-place grid penalty due to an unscheduled gearbox change, setting a time of 1:28.827s on soft tyres. Hamilton then took over at the top with a soft tyre time of 1:28.747.
Ferrari, on supersoft tyres, sat in third and fourth in the opening phase with Vettel ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. The German was half a seconds adrift of Hamilton’s soft tyre time, however. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo occupied fifth and sixth places in the opening phase, though like Mercedes, the best time of both had been delivered on soft tyres.
With rain forecast to arrive soon after the halfway point, qualifying sims arrived early. Hamilton bolted on a set of supersoft tyres and just before the half hour mark he delivered a time of 1:28.063 to move well clear of the pack. His time was 1.2s quicker than his own 2016 pole position time.
The gap was soon narrowed, however, as Vettel set about his qualifying run. The German’s lap time was a 1:28.095, just 0.032 adrift of Hamilton. Bottas slotted into third, ahead of Raikkonen.
Further back Ricciardo also got in some supersoft running. It wasn’t massively profitable for the Red Bull driver, however, and though he chipped away at his personal best for the morning, he only managed to reach a time of 1:29.612. With Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg stealing into P5 on the red-banded tyres Ricciardo slotted into P6. Like Bottas, the Australian will tomorrow take a five-place gearbox-related grid penalty.
Team-mate Max Verstappen, meanwhile, had dropped to P8 behind Romain Grosjean. The Dutchman was the only driver in the top ten to remain on a soft tyre times as with just over 20 minutes remaining rain began to fall across the circuit. Verstappen was starting his quali run when the drizzle began but following an off on the damp track at Turn 7 he returned to the pits.
A number of drivers tested the conditions on intermediate tyres in the final 15 minutes, but the track was hard to read and there were several spins, most notably from Ricciardo who got too much kerb in the final corner. He lost grip on the exit and spun on the start-finish straight. He was fortunate to avoid hitting the pit wall. Marcus Ericsson, meanwhile, went off at Vale.
2017 British Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 18 1:28.063
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 14 1:28.095 0.032
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 20 1:28.137 0.074
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 15 1:28.732 0.669
5 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 14 1:29.480 1.417
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 15 1:29.612 1.549
7 Romain Grosjean Haas 14 1:29.819 1.756
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 13 1:29.904 1.841
9 Felipe Massa Williams 19 1:29.959 1.896
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 19 1:30.088 2.025
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 17 1:30.138 2.075
12 Esteban Ocon Force India 19 1:30.172 2.109
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 15 1:30.270 2.207
14 Jolyon Palmer Renault 16 1:30.302 2.239
15 Sergio Perez Force India 16 1:30.416 2.353
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 20 1:30.504 2.441
17 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 19 1:30.515 2.452
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 24 1:30.621 2.558
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 24 1:30.630 2.567
20 Lance Stroll Williams 18 1:31.358 3.295