For the second time this weekend, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in a session that was cut short by a huge crash by Brendon Hartley.
Hartley ran wide on the dirt at the entry to Turn 9, spearing into the barrier backwards, completely wrecking the back end of his Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda with five minutes of the session remaining. Fortuitously, the New Zealander walked away seemingly unharmed but faces medical tests before this afternoon’s Qualifying. His car remains in further doubt.
Hamilton’s time of a 1 minute 17.281 seconds was just enough to beat his Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel. All of the top three held the fastest time at some point in the session.
In cloudy, but warm conditions the super-soft tyres seemed to be the compound of choice up and down the field. Bottas was the first of the front-runners to set a quick time, around two seconds faster than the early pacesetter Hartley. Moments later, Vettel and then Hamilton eclipsed his efforts with times around a second faster than last year’s pole position time.
Not to be denied, Bottas found himself back on top courtesy of his next effort. A 1:18.081 stood as the benchmark time until the Finn broke the 1 minute 17 seconds barrier minutes later. Hamilton followed his teammate, edging ahead by three-hundredths of a second.
With around twenty minutes of the session to go, Vettel returned to the track and top spot on fresh super-soft tyres. Kimi Räikkönen, Bottas and Hamilton all opted to do the same. The Mercedes duo made improvements, Hamilton faster than Bottas once more. That saw the end of the fast running, with Vettel unwittingly obstructing Carlos Sainz Jr. thanks to a miscalculation from the Ferrari pitwall. Hartley’s accident brought out the red flags, ending the session prematurely.
Räikkönen ended the session perched behind the top three, almost matching Vettel’s pace, three-tenths away from Hamilton.
Aston Martin Red Bull Racing had a contrasting session. Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top five, seven tenths shy of the ultimate pace. However, Max Verstappen languished in twelfth, managing just five laps, courtesy of an electrical problem that has forced his mechanics into more late repair work ahead of Qualifying.
The Haas F1 Team duo were grouped in sixth and seventh, proving to be the best of the rest. Kevin Magnussen led Romain Grosjean, the latter struggling with his braking at Turn 10 throughout the session.
At his home race, Sainz Jr. claimed eighth for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. His team-mate Nico Hülkenberg sat in eleventh and, most promisingly for the French team, both drivers seemed happier with the balance of the R.S.18 in this session after suffering with grip yesterday.
Sainz Jr’s compatriot Fernando Alonso showed good performance for the McLaren F1 Team in ninth, with Stoffel Vandoorne in fourteenth.
Whilst Hartley saw his session end in disaster, his Toro Rosso team-mate formed the back end of the top ten. Pierre Gasly mingled with the midfield pack, which will please the Honda powered side after a difficult – albeit successful – Azerbaijan weekend.
The Sahara Force India F1 Team lacked the pace they showed two weeks’ ago. Sergio Pérez‘s podium seems a long way away in sixteenth; Esteban Ocon faired somewhat better in thirteenth.
Charles Leclerc trumped Marcus Ericsson in the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team battle, both standing in fifteenth and eighteenth respectively. Williams Martini Racing propped up the field, Lance Stroll getting the better of Sergey Sirotkin despite a tip into the gravel at Turn 4.
[table id=2987 /]