2021 Spanish GP FP3 - Verstappen pips Hamilton to the top spot, as Ferrari picks up pace.

Max Verstappen took the top spot in the final practice session of the weekend at the Circuit De Catalunya after a close-fought session with championship rival Lewis Hamilton trading places with the Dutchman for most of the session. Charles Leclerc would take third place on the timings sheet, just in front of teammate Carlos Sainz.

Slow Opening Stages

It was an exceedingly slow start to the final session before Quali, Fernando Alonso was the first and only car out in the first ten minutes, as the Spaniard hit the track on the medium compound tires in what was dubbed a "private test session" by those in the commentary box. Alonso would set the benchmark time of the session, however, the car was not without its issues, as he complained about a lack of grip around the track.

Shortly after the ten-minute mark, Alonso was joined by Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo, in the Red Bull and McLaren respectively, later joined by both of the Alfa Romeo's. Perez would also be donning the medium compound tires, with a relatively high fuel load, as the Mexican managed to take the top spot.

The Alfa's were looking sharp in FP3, with both cars using the red-walled soft tire and setting very competitive times, both cars going almost a second clear of Perez in the Red Bull, on what looked like a set of qualifying runs. Shortly after, Ferrari-powered cars took up the top four spots, with Leclerc putting the car top, with Sainz slotting into the fourth position.

View From The Middle 

Just before the halfway point was the first time a Mercedes ventured out of the garage, both Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton made an appearance on the soft tires, trying to get some perfect lap times before heading into Qualifying later today. Bottas would put the car top straight away, however Verstappen, on the medium tries, would only be +0.207 to the Finn. Both times would be quickly toppled by Hamilton, who would go 0.119 quicker than his teammate.

It is expected that many of the drivers will take to Q2 on the medium tires, which will be welcome news to Lando Norris and McLaren, as the young Brit was only a fraction behind Perez. McLaren hasn't had the easiest run of things so far in Spain, with both drivers finishing outside the top ten in FP2 yesterday afternoon. On the other side of the McLaren garage, Ricciardo still seemed to struggle to get the best out of his car, sat in twelfth place for much of the session.

As the session hit the midway point, a lull of action began to take place, three cars would remain on track, Alonso in the Alpine, joined by both of the Alpha Tauri's, who were all making use of a more open track.

The Final 15.

With less than 15 minutes left in the session, more and more drivers were transitioning onto the soft compound of tires, this would see both of the McLarens take 5th and 6th position on the grid. However, this final part of the session would see the first sign of some struggles for the drivers, with turn ten taking some drivers by surprise.

Norris would get caught out there whilst on a personal best lap, leaving him making a long trip through the gravel trap. This was previous to Kimi Raikkonen picking up a puncture in the same area of the track, at turn eight.

The final ten minutes would start a battle between Verstappen and Hamilton, with both drivers fighting over the top spot in the final practice of the weekend. Hamilton would better his original best time by a small margin, before the Dutchman beat him, with a time of 1:17.835. The two Ferrari's would later add to this battle, with both drivers leaving the garage with less than ten minutes to go in the session.

All cars would be on track in the latter stages of the session, taking part in pre-qualifying checks and practice starts, all leading up to what should be an extremely close qualifying session in the Spanish afternoon heat.