Kimi Raikkonen topped the timeheets in final practice for the Belgian Grand Prix as he edged Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo by two tenths of a second at Spa-Francorchamps. Raikkonen’s Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel was third.
Mercedes Nico Rosberg set the early pace with a lap of 1:48.880 set on soft tyres and that stood until almost the half way point in the session. Ferrari then sent both its drivers out on supersoft tyres and Raikkonen promptly jumped to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:48.406.
That was only good enough to hold top spot for a few minutes, however, as Ricciardo then bolted on a set of the red-banded tyres and immediately stole P1 from the Finn with a lap of 1:48.189. That benchmark then stood until the closing minutes of the session when the Ferrari once again headed out on supersofts and finding a gap in the heavy end-of-session traffic, Raikkonen became the only driver to break the 1m48s barrier to claim P1 with a time of 1:47.974, 0.215 ahead of Ricciardo who failed to improve in the closing stages.
Vettel claimed third place with a lap just over a tenth of a second adrift of Ricciardo’s best. The German enjoyed a largely smooth session though it was enlivened somewhat when he appeared to be baulked by Renault’s Kevin Magnussen causing the four-time champion to swear loudly over his pit to car radio.
Countryman Pascal Wehrlein also had cause to complain early in the session when he was blocked by a slow-running Esteban Gutierrez. The Mexican was later placed under investigation by the stewards.
Fourth place in the session went to Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who finished half a second behind Raikkonen. It was a huge improvement over Williams’ Friday form when Bottas finished in P16 and team-mate Felipe Massa was 17th. Final practice saw Massa finish in P8.
Fifth place went to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. The championship leader, who is due to take a nominal 55-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s race due to a series of power unit changes, spent most of session towards the foot of the order as he focused on race pace on the soft tyre. However, in the final minutes he completed one run on supersofts to rise to P5 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who confirmed the good pace of Force India this weekend.
Nico Rosberg finished seventh. Like his team-mate the German spent the bulk of the session working with the soft tyre. He did use the supersoft late on but was only able to find marginal improvement on a busy track. With Massa in P8, the final top ten places were filled by Force India’s Sergio Perez in P9 and Haas’ Romain Grosjean in P10.
While Ricciardo had a productive run to P2 his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen hit trouble in the session. The Dutchman topped the FP2 times on Friday but in final practice he completed just two installation laps before he retreated to his team’s garage where mechanics attempted to rectify a gearbox issue. He did not return to the action during the session.
2016 Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:47.974 11
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:48.189 18
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:48.297 12
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:48.504 17
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:48.635 20
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:48.739 12
7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:48.742 19
8 Felipe Massa Williams 1:48.783 21
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:48.915 12
10 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:49.272 16
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:49.453 9
12 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:49.631 16
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:49.665 10
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:49.716 11
15 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:49.761 15
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:50.023 9
17 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:50.078 9
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:50.241 11
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:50.420 13
20 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:50.693 18
21 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:51.319 5
22 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 2