Belgian GP FP3: Hamilton hammers home the top time

Final free practice at the Belgian Grand Prix topped by Lewis Hamilton.

Peace and serenity at the spa of Formula One after a red flag free final free practice for the Belgian Grand Prix. Although the peace and serenity at Spa-Francorchamps was blipped by spinning cars and a farmer’s protest, which they did not milk. In the end, Lewis Hamilton topped the session from Rosberg as the field prepped for qualifying.

Rosberg, who topped the leaderboard at the end of the first and second practice session, was looking for the practice hat-trick in Belgium and keep momentum in his side of the garage rather than allowing Hamilton a foot in the door to success. Unfortunately for him, it was Lewis who was looking stronger this morning and keeping his German team-mate in second.

Hamilton had held the advantage over Rosberg while on the medium tyres in the earlier runs to head his title rival by just shy of two tenths of a second. When it came round to the soft tyre flyers, Rosberg posted the first Mercedes timed lap to move clear of the field but Hamilton pushed Nico into second.

The two Mercedes times were more than enough to push Red Bull down to third before Ferrari crossed the line, but Rosberg’s time was not as far clear as Lewis’ and the Ferrari’s were stronger at the end of the Kemmel Straight. Going into the race, and with DRS, Mercedes may have to hold off a strong fight here in the early stages but should be able to edge clear in the middle sector.

Red Bull had taken to the track for their flyers on softs earlier than the Ferrari’s and Mercedes but still were able to post strong times for the top 10 however the Force India of Perez was later able to pip in ahead and split them from Ferrari. Once again however Force India are not looking strong in the middle sector but their set up is giving them one of the best top speeds on the Kemmel Straight.

One of the earliest incidents of the day was the Belgian dairy farmers protest regarding milk prices, as the European-wide battle between sellers and farmers continues. Initial reports were of a potential blockade to the circuit by the farmers however Bernie Ecclestone was able to convince the farmers not to progress with this plan and instead welcomed them to make their protest at the track, which he attended.

After that, the morning was relatively calm with only the occasional spin and yellow flag waved. First of all was Roberto Merhi at the start of the session when he span at the bus stop chicane when he darted around Verstappen under braking. Later Grosjean did the same thing at the same corner, but when darting around Merhi.

In a similar moment to Ericsson in FP2 which brought out the red flag, Kvyat had his Red Bull snap mid-corner at Pouhon but the Russian was able to point it back in the right direction and stay on track.

For McLaren, their upgrade-filled weekend continued to get off to a poor step after fitting another duo of new engines into their machines. Unfortunately the new Honda power unit in the back of Alonso’s McLaren was unable to be broke in during the final practice session, after the team found a potential exhaust leak after just one installation lap. Both McLaren drivers already had been handed grid penalties meaning no matter what, they will start the race from the back of the grid.

Position Driver Gap
1 Hamilton 1:48.984
2 Rosberg 0.498
3 Vettel 0.645
4 Raikkonen 0.880
5 Perez 0.882
6 Ricciardo 0.946
7 Kvyat 0.996
8 Hulkenberg 1.016
9 Bottas 1.195
10 Massa 1.463
11 Sainz 1.568
12 Maldonado 1.601
13 Verstappen 1.615
14 Nasr 1.706
15 Ericsson 2.070
16 Grosjean 2.203
17 Button 2.997
18 Stevens 5.278
19 Merhi 5.297
20 Alonso No time set