After 60-minutes of running, Nico Rosberg topped the time sheets in the final practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The weather in Barcelona remained warm and dry as Rosberg thumped home a fastest lap to carry the lead into qualifying. It may have been an “excellent, excellent” session for Nico, whose 1:26.021 ensured he finished in P1, with Vettel and Hamilton tucked in behind. But the session did not end excellently for Raikkonen.
Lewis went into P3 on the back of topping yesterday’s second free practice session by four tenths of a second to Vettel, while Rosberg lingered a further three tenths back. However, in FP1 it was Nico setting the time to beat. Which Hamilton was only seven hundredths of a second away from beating.
Yesterday also proved to be troublesome for Red Bull with Daniel Riccardo forced to take his race engine on FP2 after his old engine had no more to give. McLaren meanwhile were showing off their developments to get within the top 10 in the afternoon session.
But when the green light came on and the final practice session was underway, Pastor Maldonado strode onto the track to break the silence. But it was not for another seven minutes before the first time was posted, thanks to Nasr on a 1:31.478.
As the opening 15 minutes unfolded, more drivers had posted their early lap times and now Raikkonen sat at the top of the time sheet on the hard compound tyres. Kimi’s lap of 1:27.330 was enough to move 1.3 seconds clear of second place Ricciardo, after the Red Bull driver carried out a solid handful of early laps.
Raikkonen remained fastest for most of the opening half hour, but as the thirty minute mark approached Ricciardo pipped in ahead. But despite Ricciardo going almost three tenths faster, the Red Bull was using the option compound of tyres compound to Kimi’s primes.
By now most drivers had posted a time to speak of, but Rosberg was unable to move close to Kimi as he felt he was struggling to get temperature into his rear brakes. However, Hamilton and Rosberg soon enough sat P1 and P2 once both posted flying laps to move ahead of Ricciardo, while still on the hard tyres.
But despite being P2, Lewis was still a victim of turn three and span his Mercedes. As he made his way through the opening turns, he began to develop understeer and ran to the outside of the track before clipping the astroturf and spinning. Luckily for him, he was able to stop without hitting the wall before making his way back to the pits with heavily worn tyres.
Unlike Ricciardo, Kvyat was forced to sit in the garage for a large proportion of the session as the team carried out extensive work to the rear of his car. But luckily for the Russian, he was able to get out with 15 minutes to go and in that time he managed to carry out a few laps on the hard tyres to move himself into the top 10 as the track sat relatively quiet.
Elsewhere, drivers began to hit the track on the medium tyres allowing the likes of Hulkenberg to go P7. However Hulkenberg’s time was still 1.3 seconds slower than Rosberg’s benchmark 1:26.777 from earlier in the session.
Valtteri Bottas on the other hand found 1.1 seconds on the option tyres to move P1 by just shy of one tenth of a second. His Williams team-mate however could only move P5, and sit half a second down on Bottas.
Vettel was the next man to take the top spot as he moved half a second clear of Bottas. But Rosberg returned to his top spot momentarily after to go 0.156 seconds clear of his fellow German. Over those laps, Nico had taken the advantage from Sebastian in the first sector, but Vettel regained some time in the middle sector. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile could only post a time good enough for P3 when he followed across the line.
But Lewis would have at least been grateful he could attempt a flying lap. Unlike Kimi whose time was one second off Rosberg after Ferrari sent him out with an incorrect setting applied to ERS system on his car. In true Kimi fashion, he replied over the radio with a sarcastic “excellent, excellent”.
Nevertheless, Rosberg ended the session on the top spot after the drivers failed to improve on their best times. Vettel tucked in between the two Silver Arrows with Hamilton two tenths down on Rosberg.
McLaren were unable to finish with either car in the top 10 this time around, but Button’s best lap was just over a tenth down on 10th placed Sainz.