Barcelona FP3: Verstappen tops rain-interrupted session

Barcelona FP3: Verstappen tops rain-interrupted session

Barcelona FP3: Verstappen tops rain-interrupted session

Max Verstappen went fastest in the final practice session for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, a session interrupted by a Red flag and rain.

FP3 started under the threat of rain, and all drivers quickly took the track to put in some dry running before the rain arrives.

Verstappen went fastest of all early on, and his time remained unchallenged throughout the session, as the rain meant no meaningful running was done. The track dried out towards the end of the session, but no one improved their laptimes.

The reigning Formula 1 Champion was fastest of all, over two tenths faster than teammate Sergio Perez, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was third fastest four tenths off the pace.

This mean Verstappen heads into Qualifying with an advantage, but with rain although threatening to return, that might mix things up for the Saturday afternoon shootout in Spain.

Buildup towards FP3

Verstappen gave everyone a fright when he topped the first practice session on Friday, more the seven tenths faster than teammate Perez, and while he went even faster in the afternoon session, Fernando Alonso came as close as 0.170s to the Dutchman.

Is that really the gap? Or was Verstappen taking it easy? Will we have another Monaco-esque Qualifying in Catalunya today? Probably not, as Red Bull will be really strong.

Ferrari spent their Friday testing their upgraded SF-23, and did not deliver any headline-grabbing times, so will they unleash their pace on Saturday? Or is there any pace in the revised Red single seater?

We know from what we saw on Friday that another updated car, a Black Arrow in particular, doesn’t seem to be having any pace, and Hamilton expressed his concern that he may not be able to make it into Q3 today.

Other than that, the drivers seem to be happy with the revised layout of the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, and rightly so as the current F1 cars look glorious going into that final turn.

Barcelona FP3 session highlights

There were some clouds over the track during FP2 on Friday, and even some scattered drops of rain, but nothing dramatic.

FP3 started in cooler overcast conditions, temperatures at 22 degrees, while the track temperature was 28 degrees compared to a mid forties figure in FP1. The possibility of rain 80%.

The teams and drivers did not waste any time to get out on track to put in some laps on slick tyres in preparation for Qualifying before the rain arrives with lighting bolts visible in the sky.

Alpine informed Esteban Ocon that the rain was expected to arrive within nine minutes from the start of the session. Both drivers for the French team have taken new power unit components on their A523’s.

Pierre Gasly took on a new Internal Combustion Engine, Turbocharger, MGU-H, MGU-K and Exhaust for FP3, while Ocon got a new Exhaust.

Seven minutes into the session, Hamilton informed his team that he not happy with the drivability of his Mercedes W14.

Less than ten minutes into the session; Nico Hulkenberg radioed: “Starting to get some rain on the visor.”

Second later, Logan Sargeant brought out the Red flag as he ended up in the barriers after losing his FW45 in Turn 14.

And indeed the rain arrived between Turns 10 and 14 just after Sargeant binned his car.

The session was soon given the go with a little over 40 minutes remaining, but the teams took their time before sending their drivers out to get a clear idea about the weather.

Ten minutes after the Red flag ended, Lando Norris ventured out on track on Intermediate tyres to have a look at the conditions, and returned straight back to the pits after running wide at Turn 10.

With twenty minutes remaining, Ferrari sent out Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc on Intermediate tyres, the former setting on a timed lap. He ended up almost 12 seconds slower than the fastest time set by Verstappen at that moment.

With 15 minutes remaining most of the drivers were out on track.

“It’s definitely raining, the track just doesn’t seem that wet,” George Russell told his pit wall. Alex Albon agreed, he said: “It feels quite dry.”

In the meantime, Hamilton climbed out of his car and was watching the proceeding on the screens in the Mercedes garage.

Mercedes told Sky Sports F1 why: “It’s on the borderline a bit too dry for this inter at the moment. He’s watching from the garage and is ready to hop into the car when he feels it’s time to do it.

“He’s got the experience to know when to do it and knows this place like the back of his hand.”

Stroll soon had a moment on the outside of Turn 5 and went through the gravel, as Aston Martin called him back to the pit, to make sure their mechanics don’t have to rebuild a car before qualifying.

Soon after, Gasly had a similar moment at Turn 8, but kept going as well.

The drivers soon switched onto slick tyres as the track dried out, with the teams trying to make the most out of the last few minutes of the session as they prepare for Qualifying.

That prompted Hamilton to get back into his Mercedes and have a brief run on Soft tyres.

Towards the end, Leclerc radioed the Ferrari pit wall asking them to check the clutch on his car, as he felt something was wrong when he was doing a practice start. The team informed him all was ok.

Stroll survived another incident in the dying moments of the session, as he seemed to get in the way of AlphaTauri’s De Vries who also had a similar moment with Ferrari’s Sainz just moments later, and was forced to abort his lap.

How they finished

Verstappen posted a lap time of 1:13.664 to go 0.250s faster than Perez in the sister Red Bull, while Hamilton was 0.158s further down the road in third.

Sainz was fourth fastest in the Ferrari, with a lap time of 1:14.420, over half a second slower than Verstappen, while compatriot Alonso was 0.024s behind the #55 Ferrari in fifth.

Russell went sixth fastest in the other Mercedes, 0.641s off the pace and was chased by Leclerc in seventh, 0.075s slower than the Briton.

Valtteri Bottas was eighth fastest for Alfa Romeo, 0.696s off the pace of the leader, while Yuki Tsunoda followed in ninth, 0.299s behind the Finn.

Norris was tenth fastest in the McLaren, over one second too slow.

FP3 Official Results