Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen topped the times in the final practice session of the weekend ahead of the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix, just one tenth of a second clear of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, as Ferrari surprised in Belgium on Saturday morning.
The Finn set a time of 1:43.916 to take the top spot on a set of the ultra-soft tyres, as times tumbled on a drying track, which had been classified wet at the start of the session.
Having looked like they had the pace on Friday, both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers appeared to struggle slightly on the softest rubber in comparison to Ferrari this morning, and whilst the Silver Arrows look more supreme on the super-soft compound, it is still slightly surprising that the times were so close at the top, at a circuit that was tipped to favour the German squad this weekend.
Raikkonen has looked strong all weekend at Spa, and held the top spot for a good portion of the session. The Finn appears to love this track, having won here on four occasions previously, and the Ferrari driver appears to be able to get the best out of the SF70-H on nearly every lap.
Lewis Hamilton was just one tenth of a second down on Raikkonen in third place, with just one thousandth of a second splitting the Brit and Vettel, with barely anything between the two title protagonists here in Belgium.
Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen was fourth, but over a second off the pace of first placed Raikkonen. Nevertheless that will be a pleasing effort for the Dutchman, who considers the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps as a home race, having been born in Belgium, despite his Dutch citizenship.
Valtteri Bottas, who appeared to struggle a lot more than his silver arrows team-mate this morning, was down in fifth place and 1.3 seconds down on the top spot, leaving the Finn with some work to do in order to pick up his pace ahead of qualifying.
Daniel Ricciardo was six hundredths further back in sixth, having tried a number of different radical set ups on Friday, the Australian was back to a more normal configuration today.
Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver Jolyon Palmer had one of his best ever sessions, having seemingly come back from the summer break fully re-charged, slotting into seventh place, just two tenths off the pace of Ricciardo’s Red Bull.
Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez was a solid eighth, and this looks to be a good track for the Silverstone based squad, who are extremely strong in the first sector. The Mexican was a tenth quicker than Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr was eleventh.
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Fernando Alonso completed the top ten, a promising result for the Spaniard, who had early problems with the closing of his DRS once again, as he had in both practice sessions on Friday.
Nico Hulkenberg was eleventh, and a surprising six tenths of a second off the pace of Renault team-mate Palmer, with second Force India driver Esteban Ocon in twelfth, one tenth further back.
Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean, who was once again struggling with the brakes on his VF17 , ended up down in thirteenth place, ahead of home boy Stoffel Vandoorne.
Having already been expecting a 40 place grid penalty for an all-new power unit ahead of this race weekend, as well as a new gearbox, the Belgian has now received a further 25 place penalty after an issue was discovered overnight with the new engine.
That unit has now been replaced, which means Vandoorne will use the same spec engine as team-mate Alonso, but with the disadvantage of a massive grid drop – not what the Belgian would have wanted on home soil.
Williams Martini Racing driver Lance Stroll was fifteenth fastest, and quicker than team-mate Felipe Massa by five hundredths of a second. The Brazilian was looking to make up for lost time, having completed just three laps on Friday before crashing out in FP1, but that did not go quite to plan.
The damage sustained to his car on Friday morning, saw Massa need a completely new chassis and that meant he had to sit out of free practice two whilst the engineers worked on that task. His weekend has then gone from bad to worse however, as stewards confirmed the Brazilian will be investigated after this session for not slowing down under waved yellows.
Kevin Magnussen was seventeenth, just ahead of Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat, who had an early end to the final practice session of the weekend when he stopped on the side of the track halfway down the Kemmel Straight, with twenty-five minutes of the session remaining.
The Russian reported over team radio that he had lost all power. A fire then developed at the back of the STR12 as it was pushed away, which was quickly put out with a fire extinguisher, much to the dismay of Kvyat who knows only too well the sort of damage the spray from a fire extinguisher can do to a car.
Sauber F1 Team drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson once again propped up the bottom of the order, four tenths of a second down on eighteenth place, and a massive 4.3 seconds down on the lead time of Raikkonen.
With a Ferrari one-two not a result many had expecting this morning, Mercedes now have some homework to do ahead of qualifying later today, if they are to get one over on the Italian team.
It is likely the silver arrows will have the option to turn up the wick for qualifying, but we should still be set for an extremely close qualifying session between the top two teams, with Raikkonen on top form and looking like this could be his best chance to take pole position this year.
2017 Belgian Grand Prix – Final Practice 3 Results
|4||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||1:45.034||1.118||13|
|6||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull Racing||1:45.286||1.37||18|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India||1:45.857||1.941||14|
|9||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso||1:45.942||2.026||18|
|12||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Force India||1:46.179||2.263||14|
|18||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso||1:47.903||3.987||7|