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Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix 2024

Several drivers under investigation as Sainz shines at home

A bit of argy-bargy between Lewis Hamilton and Lance Stroll, and then Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris. How will that play out?

Hamilton FP3 Spain
To news overview © XPBimages

Several of F1's leading drivers are under investigation following a bizarre end to final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton was initially involved in a late skirmish with Lance Stroll. With eight minutes remaining, Hamilton was trundling back to the pits in his Mercedes after briefly going off into the gravel.

Hamilton then cut across a line as Stroll approached in his Aston Martin through Turn 5, leading to hm clipping the right-hand side of the Canadian's car, although it appeared as if he deliberately edged his way towards the Briton and created the contact. 

"I didn't see him. My bad," remarked Hamilton, who held his hand up in apology to Stroll, who made his feelings clear over the radio as he said: "This ******* guy thinks he's alone on track."

The stewards are to look into the matter following a session that saw Carlos Sainz take the honours in front of his home crowd at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, albeit with just 0.074s separating the top four.

McLaren's Lando Norris was second quickest, adrift by 0.030s, followed by Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari, and then the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

But then the session ended in further controversial circumstances as Leclerc seemed to run into Norris, the Monégasque banging his wheel into the MCL24. 

"He just ran into me," said Norris. "I think I've got damage." It appears Leclerc was annoyed at being impeded by Norris, albeit from a long way back as the former was on a hot lap.

The aftermath saw Verstappen being forced to abort his own flier, with the domino effect continuing as Sainz was also blocked moments later.

Result Free practice 3 - Spanish

# Driver Team Time Tyre
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What unfolded was totally surprising, and at odds with a fascinating session that has left it too close to call as to who will be out in front of qualifying given the narrow margins between the top four.

Mercedes' George Russell finished 0.151s down, with Hamilton a further two-tenths of a second adrift in sixth on the timesheet.

After setting the fastest time on Friday of 1:13.264s, Hamilton was first on track for the final hour-long session, and on the soft tyres posted a fuel-heavy lap of 1:14.178s.

Verstappen was the next to join his fellow F1 champion, albeit on the medium compound, and despite setting a first sector time quicker than Hamilton, the Dutch driver dropped off slightly in sectors two and three and finished 0.059s adrift.

After returning to the garage, Hamilton's next outing saw him lower his time to 1:13.865s, although Russell soon displaced him by 0.434s.

The Ferrari duo of Sainz and Leclerc then sandwiched the Mercedes pair on their initial soft-tyre runs, with the home hero 0.105s down, and Leclerc a further 0.036s back.

After 20 minutes that quartet were the frontrunners, with fifth-quickest Verstappen next up, leading a group of those on mediums.

Norris then pushed himself into the fray, albeit on the yellow-striped Pirellis, edging Sainz out of second on the timesheet by just a thousandth of a second.

There followed the usual FP3 high-fuel runs, with the softs and mediums used up and down the pit lane as each team ran different programmes in preparation for the grand prix.

Williams was the first to show its hand once the qualifying simulation runs commenced 20 minutes into the session. That saw Alex Albon post a 1:13.753.

With just over 15 minutes remaining, Norris lifted himself to the top of the timesheet with the quickest lap of the weekend with a 1:13.043s, and on an old set of soft tyres.

Hamilton then posted the fastest middle sector but finished 0.316s down on Norris, with the majority of the loss coming in the final sector in which he had to wrestle with the car on occasion.

The stage was then set for Sainz, and he did not disappoint. The Spaniard has never finished on the podium in his home race but is in the fight for pole position after pipping Norris by three-hundredths of a second.

Behind sixth-placed Hamilton, and the bizarre end to the session, Sergio Perez was seven-tenths down in his Red Bull, followed by Albon, Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin, and Oscar Piastri for McLaren, the latter nine-tenths back.

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