After losing most of the second practice session yesterday, the teams were keen to get back out on track for the final hour of practice to put as many laps on the cars as possible. Mercedes were the team on top as Valtteri Bottas lead the duo to a one-two lock out at the top of the timing screen. But it was not a clean session for the Finn, nor his fellow countryman, as both ended up in the barrier before the chequered flag fell, ending both sesisons early.
The predicted rain for this session held off so the cars were able to get out for 60 minutes on the slick tyres. Bottas led he field, setting a 1:29.055 on the soft tyres before his session came to an early end. He just edged out team mate Lewis Hamilton for the fastest lap on the same tyre, whilst Sebastian Vettel was hot on their heels. The German was the only driver of the top four who was able to set a competitive lap time on the super-softs.
The first red flag, courtesy of Valtteri Bottas, came just before the halfway mark. The Finn ran wide at Spoon, pulling up the artificial grass on the exit as he headed for the wall. He hit the wall a couple of times before coming to a stop, having damaged the rear-right corner of his Mercedes. Limping back to the pits, he managed to get the car into the garage but that marked the end of his session.
There were just a few minutes of green running before the reds were out again, this time for Raikkonen. The rear of the Ferrari kicked out halfway through Degner 2 and Raikkonen was unable to recover the cra before it hit the barrier and damaged the left side of the car. He was unable to recover his Ferrari to the pits. He finished the session at the bottom of the timing board as he was on race-simulations on a scrubbed set of softs when he crashed.
The two incidents and subsiquent red flag periods ruined most of the driver’s super-soft qualifying simulations, including Hamilton. Vettel got lucky as he was in race-simulations when the red flags hit, leaving his qualifying simulations until the end of the session.
The Red Bull duo were just outside the top four, with last race’s winner Max Verstappen staying ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. Both Red Bulls were running the super-soft tyre. Esteban Ocon took the best-of-the-rest position of sixth, just over a second off Bottas’ pace time.
Nico Hulkenberg placed his Renault ahead of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren for seventh and eighth, whislt Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer rounded off the top ten.
Both Alonso and Palmer will suffer grid drops after qualifying; Alonso recieves a 35-place drop due to an engine change and Palmer gets a 20-place drop for changing engine componants.