Spain 2019 Practice 3 Analysis
Practice 1 and 2 Overview
Coming into the 3rd practice session of the weekend there were many interesting questions posed, could Ferrari close on the Mercedes dominance? would Haas maintain their excellent start to the weekend? and could Renault creep up the table and fight for the points tomorrow?
The first 2 practice session demonstrated Mercedes dominance, the car looked a handful to drive but both Bottas and Hamilton feel extremely confident in the stability the car provides on all points of the corner. While the Ferrari looks planted the Mercedes just has that advantage of controlling tyre temps, particularly in sector 3 with Ferrari losing 0.4 seconds a lap.
Mid table Haas looked confident that they could get both drivers into Q3 for the first time this season. It's been a difficult first 4 races for the team but the car looks good around the track closing in on the Red Bull, particularly over 1 lap.
Lower down the table Racing Point look to be struggling at all points of the track with Perez 18th in P2 and would hope to improve.
Practice 3 Analysis
During the start of Practice 3 Vettel, Leclerc, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg would go out and try a few hard laps with Vettel hitting 1.18.2 before spinning at the final chicane when the rear gave out on him. The Ferrari were trying a hard lap, then a slow lap and then push again and on lap 3 of Vettel's stint the tyres overheated and spun him out. Thankfully no damage and he was able to return back to the pits.
The world championship leader Valtteri Bottas came out and on his out lap produced a red flag as with cold tyres a clumsy spin at turn 5 ensured he was stuck in the gravel. It was an extremely strange error to make during the slow speed turn 5 and meant that the pendulum swung back in Hamilton and Ferraris favour.
With 7 minutes lost due to the Spin there was a flurry of activity and all teams were eager to finish their compromised programs in the tricky colder conditions in Barcelona. Hamilton struck a 1.18.3 right off the bad with Norris striking a 1.19.7 and Magnussen a tenth behind. Looking at the pace during these trickier conditions it looked that it suited Ferrari far more, with the Mercedes team struggling to getting the tyres to warm up.
But then a 1.17.6 from Hamilton on the Mediums tyres highlighted the dominance the Silver arrows have around here despite the compromised conditions. Thankfully for the team they managed to get Bottas' car back to the garage with 25 minutes remaining and sent the Finn out to get as much running as possible after the spin.
Lower down the grid an impressive lap on the softs from Kyvat left him 6th while team mate Albon was 8th sandwiched between Norris in 7th. A touch of oversteer from Albon in turn 4 ruined his lap with Sainz not getting out of the way quick enough. On attempt 2 Albon produced a 1.18.6 and highlights an impressive session for the Toro Rosso team and makes them an outside shot of a Q3 run.
With 15 minutes to go the top teams gave us a prelude to qualifying with Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc and Vettel all sticking the softs tyres on and producing quick laps. Bottas was compromised by Vettel during the final sector crossing the line with a 1.172, but Leclerc came in with a 1.17.0. A lap of extra of prep and Hamilton cross the line with an extremely fast 1.16.5 and showing they look like to have better tyre prep in both cool and warmer conditions. Grosjean out of nowhere overtook Bottas and surprised the field with a 1.17.1 and likely throwing their hat in the fight for the 3rd row of the grid with Red Bull who could only finish behind both the Haas drivers.
George Russell prematurely ended the session by hitting the barriers on the exit of turn 4. The Brit carried a lot of speed out of 3 and breaking into 4 a touch of oversteer on turn in unsettled the rear and the car came through the gravel into the barriers. Russell immediately went to check the rear of the car with suspicions something might have broken on turn in.
And with the that incident it came with the end of the session. Impressive performances by Hamilton with that stunning 1.16.5, 0.5 of a second clear of Leclerc in 2nd, the Haas boys beating Verstappen and Gasly as well as a fantastic P8 for Albon. Ricciardo in P17 will ensure many a thought will be crossing his mind as well as Perez, Stroll and the Racing point team who again struggled around the long, sweeping turns of Barcelona.