Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheet in final practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, finishing just six hundredths of a second ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen in a session that was interrupted by a late crash for local hero Stoffel Vandoorne.
The McLaren driver was on the hot lap of his qualifying simulation when he came across the slower Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas at the Raidillon corner. As Bottas took a wide line as he moved onto the Kemmel Straight, just as Vandoorne moved to pass the Mercedes around the outside. Vandoorne was pushed off track and immediately spun. He ended up against the barriers on the right side of the track, facing the wrong way, and the session was red-flagged.
Bottas was quickly on the radio to explain that he had been unaware of the McLaren’s approach and the matter was set to be investigated after the session.
Kimi Räikkönen set the early pace in the hour-long session, using supersoft tyres to set a time of 1:43.425. Vettel might have beaten that with his first run but the German lost time behind the slower Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
Räikkönen then held away until the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers went out on fresh sets of sueprsoft tyres.
Raikkonen improved to initially hold top spot with 20 minutes left on the clock as team-mate Vettel slotted into second place just 0.033s adrift of the Finn. Hamilton took third place.
Vettel went for a second hot lap on the run and moved to top spot with a time of 1:42.661. Raikkonen followed suit but could only make a marginal improvement and he finished the session in second place, 0.063 behind the German.
Those runs were then followed by Vandoorne’s crash. Following the resultant red flag period just two minutes of running remained and a queue of cars formed at the end of the pit lane. In the rush to take to track Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly spun at the pit exit but the Frenchman was able to recover and continue.
Only a handful of drivers were able to make it across the line for a push lap before the chequered flag fell, ensuring that the top four order remained the same. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, m,ade an improvement to 1:44.048 but stayed fifth.
The Dutchman’s team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, was sixth fastest, while Sauber’s Charles Leclerc took seventh place ahead of Racing Point Force India’s Sergio Perez, Hulkenberg and the second Racing Point car of Esteban Ocon.
2018 Formula 1 Belgian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 13 1:42.661
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 15 1:42.724 0.063
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 10 1:42.798 0.137
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 13 1:43.464 0.803
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 10 1:44.048 1.387
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 13 1:44.479 1.818
7 Charles Leclerc Sauber 12 1:44.963 2.302
8 Sergio Perez Force India 10 1:45.341 2.680
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 17 1:45.464 2.803
10 Esteban Ocon Force India 13 1:45.485 2.824
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 11 1:45.536 2.875
12 Romain Grosjean Haas 12 1:45.814 3.153
13 Carlos Sainz Renault 13 1:45.925 3.264
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 12 1:46.087 3.426
15 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 16 1:46.182 3.521
16 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 17 1:46.259 3.598
17 Lance Stroll Williams 10 1:46.502 3.841
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 11 1:46.630 3.969
19 Fernando Alonso McLaren 16 1:46.942 4.281
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 14 1:47.061 4.400