All has been perfectly laid out for the FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE ESPAÑA EMIRATES 2018 qualifying session. After free practice 3, Mercedes is still head and shoulders above the rest and is firmly bidding for pole position. It is expected to be a toss-up between Lewis Hamilton, first today, and Valtteri Bottas, trailing him by as little as 13 hundredths of a second.
Defending World Champion Lewis Hamilton trashed the pole position record established last year with a 1m17.281s lap, approaching the unofficial record Sebastian Vettel clinched over this winter testing, on a 1m17.182s.
The German Scuderia Ferrari representative had to settle for third, 0.269s off the pace. Team mate Kimi Räikkönen took to the track with a new power unit as a result of the troubles plaguing him yesterday, and wound up 4th, 31 hundredths off Vettel and 3 tenths behind the leader. They will both challenge for the front row, although they seem to be slightly behind the Brackley crowd.
Unlike last Friday, the new benchmarks were set on supersoft tyres. With one exception: Max Max Verstappen (Aston Martin Red Bull), forced out with issues on his RB14 engine after five laps, missed the opportunity to switch to the supersofts and had to settle for 12th place.
Daniel Ricciardo slotted his Red Bull right behind the Mercedes and Ferrari duos. The Australian, one of the fittest drivers at the moment, is staging an amazing early season and is engrossed in a fierce home battle with Verstappen, especially after their crash in the previous Grand Prix. The Australian clocked a 1m17.981s lap, 0.700s off the pace.
The two Spanish Formula 1 drivers made it into the top 10 this time: Carlos Sainz collected 8th place for Renault (1m18.783s), a great improvement coming from a messy Friday. Fernando Alonso conquered 9th place (1m18.847s) on a heavily updated McLaren. With the recent improvements, Alonso aims at landing a Q3 spot for the first time this season.
Cloudy skies threatened the FP3, with cooler temperatures and dry tarmac. With only two minutes to go, the session was suspended after Brendon Hartley (Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda) crashed into the barrier in the fast right-hand Turn 9. The kiwi touched the grass and destroyed his car against the crash barrier.
Track activities at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will resume at 3pm for the qualifying, under the uncertainty of potential rain spells.