Ferrari continued to set the pace in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix with Charles Leclerc going quickest in FP3, almost half a second clear of team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton failed to finish the session, however. The Mercedes driver crashed heavily midway through the session, bringing out the red flags.
With Ferrari dominating the session’s opening exchanges, Hamilton, then nine tenths of a second off the P1 pace Sebastian Vettel, was pushing for an improvement when he put a wheel on the outside kerb on entry to the Fagnes corner.
He lost the rear end of his car and slid off track at high speed. He hit the tyres barrier on the outside of the corner hard, with the nose cone and front-right wheel of his car becoming buried under the tyre wall. The championship leader was unhurt, but the incident sparked a lengthy red flag period while his wrecked car was cleared.
The session resumed with 13 minutes left on the clock and most of the field quickly took to the track to put in qualifying sims. Vettel locked up on the entry to La Source at the very start of his run and thus Leclerc’s rise to P1 was relatively straightforward. And after an error-free lap the Monegasque driver took P1 with a time of 1:44.206 that went unchallenged to the flag.
Valtteri Bottas was third at the end of the session, with the Finn ending up four hundredths of a second off Vettel but more than four tenths of a second behind Leclerc.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo took a surprise fourth place in the session, with the Australian outpacing former team-mate Max Verstappen, whose best time of 1:45.312 was only good enough for P7, three tenths of a second off Ricciardo, However, Verstappen was unable to get the most out of his qualifying run as he hit traffic.
Sergio Pérez, who overnight signed a new three-year deal to stay at Racing Point, continued the team’s good form at Spa by taking sixth place with a time of 1:45.521, 1.315s off Leclerc’s pace and marginally ahead of Hamilton’s best time from early in the session.
Hamilton, meanwhile, held seventh place ahead of the Alfa Romeos of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, while the final top-10 spot went to Toro Rosso returnee Pierre Gasly.
Alex Albon, Gasly’s replacement at Red Bull, finished at the bottom of the order as he abandoned qualifying sims in favour of race preparation due to a an engine-related penalty that will see him start from the back of the grid.
2019 FIA Formula One Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 9 1:44.206
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 12 1:44.657 0.451
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 11 1:44.703 0.497
4 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 10 1:44.974 0.768
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 11 1:45.312 1.106
6 Sergio Perez Racing Point 12 1:45.521 1.315
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 4 1:45.566 1.360
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 13 1:45.659 1.453
9 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 13 1:45.688 1.482
10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 15 1:45.752 1.546
11 Romain Grosjean Haas 15 1:45.806 1.60
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 11 1:45.855 1.649
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 15 1:46.004 1.798
14 Carlos Sainz McLaren 14 1:46.017 1.811
15 Lando Norris McLaren 13 1:46.270 2.064
16 Lance Stroll Racing Point 11 1:46.379 2.173
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 13 1:46.642 2.436
18 George Russell Williams 14 1:47.858 3.652
19 Robert Kubica Williams 14 1:48.350 4.144
20 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 14 1:50.681 6.475