Kimi Raikkonen topped the times in the final practice session of the weekend by two tenths of a second, from Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo, to give Scuderia Ferrari the surprising upper hand ahead of qualifying.
The Finn, who is the most successful of the current drivers at the circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, set a time of 1:47.974 to take the top spot from the Australian on a set of new super-soft tyres, after Red Bull had looked to have the edge this weekend, in light of Mercedes AMG PETRONAS taking a different tack this weekend.
Sebastian Vettel was third in the second Ferrari, having not looked as comfortable as his team-mate in the SF16-H and unable to match the Finn’s pace.
Valtteri Bottas was fourth for Williams Martini Racing, and looked much more confident in the FW38 than he had done in the Friday practice sessions.
Lewis Hamilton, who took a third engine change ahead of FP3, finished the FP3 session in fifth. That power unit update, takes his penalty tally up to a 55 place grid drop, after receiving an eighth MGU-H and turbocharger, as well as a sixth MGU-K and ICE. The Brit will only run in the Q1 session during qualifying later today, and that is to ensure the current world champion sets a time within 107% of the fastest lap of the session.
Hamilton was running a different programme to the rest of the pack in this session, concentrating on race set-up and preparation, rather than the usual qualifying simulations, unnecessary work for someone starting from the back of the grid.
Sahara Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg finished the session in sixth, and the Silverstone based squad have looked strong so far this weekend, and both drivers appear confident in the VJM09. Could one of them spring a podium finish this weekend?
Nico Rosberg was a surprising seventh, but also appeared to be on a different programme to the other drivers during the session. The German definitely appeared to be holding back, so it will be interesting to see where he sits in the order during qualifying. Have Ferrari and Red Bull caught up the German squad?
Max Verstappen had his FP3 session interrupted by an issue with a sensor in his gearbox, which saw the Dutchman only able to complete a handful of laps with no time set, before retiring to the pits for the remainder of FP3.
Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa, finished eighth after battling with the Fw38 for the majority of the session, but pulling out a strong lap at the end to finish three tenths down on his team-mate.
Sergio Perez was ninth in the second Force India, ahead of Romain Grosjean in the first of the Haas F1 Team machines, who despite complaining over team radio and running off track a number of times, was able to finish in the top ten.
McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso was eleventh, but he too will be starting from the back of the grid on Sunday following an engine change. The Spaniard was just ahead of Esteban Gutierrez in the second Haas car, four tenths off the pace of his team-mate. The Mexican will however be investigated after the session following an incident that caused Manor Racing Team driver Pascal Wehrlein to run wide and onto the grass to avoid him. The pair were coming up to Eau Rouge with the German at speed, but the Mexican driving slowly and still on the racing line, made no indication as to which side he was going to take, causing Wehrlein to go of track as a precaution.
McLaren-Honda F1 driver Jenson Button finished in thirteenth place, but reported issues with big oscillation on upshifts from fourth and fifth gear to sixth during the session. The Brit was ahead of Renault Sport F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen, but the Dane will also be investigated after the session for allegedly impeding Vettel at Blanchimont.
Wehrlein was a strong fifteenth place for Manor, ahead of both Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers, Daniil Kvat and Carlos Sainz Jnr. The Faenza based squad have not shown the performance we would usually expect from them so far this weekend, so it will be interesting to see if they can do anything to improve their set-up ahead of qualifying.
Jolyon Palmer finished in eighteenth place and was lucky to keep the RS16 out of the barrier at the end of the session when he ran off track and into the gravel, well saved potential accident by the Brit. The Renault sport F1 team driver was ahead of Felipe Nasr in the first of the Sauber F1 Team cars, and so despite bringing a raft of updates to Spa this weekend, the Hinwil based squad do not appear to have made any steps forward performance wise.
Esteban Ocon, experiencing his first weekend as an official F1 driver for the Manor Racing Team, was twentieth. The Frenchman was almost a second down on team-mate Wehrlein, which was not surprising considering he is still getting used to a new car and the squad.
Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson has not had the best of weekend’s so far, and after taking a new engine following FP2 yesterday, incurring a ten place grid penalty in the process, the Swede also had issues in FP3, spending the majority of the session in the pits, after reporting a total loss of power over team radio early on. Ericsson did manage to get back out on track, but with just ten minutes of the session remaining, he could only do enough to end FP3 in twenty-first place.
Heading into qualifying, we have an interesting situation on our hands. Hamilton is unlikely to take complete part and Mercedes team-mate Rosberg has so far held his cards close to his chest. Both Ferrari and Red Bull look strong, and we could have an interesting battle between the three teams for pole position this afternoon.
2016 Belgian Grand Prix – FP3 Results
|2||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull Racing||1:48.189||18|
|6||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India||1:48.739||12|
|9||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India||1:48.915||12|
|16||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso||1:50.023||9|
|17||55||Carlos Sainz||SPA||Toro Rosso||1:50.078||9|
|22||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull Racing||no time||2|