Sebastian Vettel leads Ferrari one-two in final practice
Belgian Grand Prix - FP3

Sebastian Vettel leads Ferrari one-two in final practice

Sebastian Vettel kept Ferrari on top for the third session in a row at the Belgian Grand Prix as he beat teammate Kimi Raikkonen to the fastest time in final practice.

Only 0.063s split the two Ferrari drivers, with Vettel's championship rival Lewis Hamilton a further 0.074s adrift in third place. Vettel had been in second place after his first attempt on super-soft tyres, but a second lap on the same set yielded a 1:42.661 -- the fastest time of the weekend so far.

The margins are small enough that all three drivers will fancy their chances of securing pole position on Saturday afternoon, while Valtteri Bottas in fourth place has to find over 0.8s on his practice time to stand a chance of challenging the Ferraris for the front row.

The relative sector times of the two teams reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the two cars, with Hamilton losing 0.24s on the long straights in the first sector but gaining 0.25s in the high-speed corners of the second sector. Ferrari holds the edge in the power-sensitive final sector, giving Vettel and Raikkonen an advantage over Hamilton -- but the differences are small after both teams brought an engine upgrade to this weekend.

Interestingly, had Raikkonen hooked up all three of his fastest sectors, he would have put together a quicker overall lap time than Vettel.

The session was red flagged with 10 minutes to go after Stoffel Vandoorne spun on the Kemmel Straight trying to avoid a collision with Bottas. Vandoorne was on a hot lap and trying to gain a slipstream from teammate Fernando Alonso when Bottas' Mercedes ended up between the two McLarens through Eau Rouge.

As the cars emerged at the top of Raidillon, Vandoorne went to the outside of Bottas only for the Mercedes to drift across the track and put the McLaren on the grass. Vandoorne did well to avoid a major accident, but still clipped the barrier on the inside of the track with the rear of his car. An eight minute stoppage followed to allow the marshals to clear the stricken McLaren from the circuit. Both drivers have been summoned to see the stewards.

The red flag ruined Red Bull's super-soft runs, but Max Verstappen returned to the track in the final two minutes to improve with a time 1.387s off Vettel. He had a scrappy middle sector, however, and will hope to see that margin decrease to under a second when it comes to qualifying. Daniel Ricciardo also attempted a last minute super-soft time, but traffic and a rushed preparation lap meant he failed to improve on his soft tyre time. That left him just 0.5s quicker than Charles Leclerc, who set an impressive lap to haul his Sauber up to seventh.

Sergio Perez continued his strong weekend in eighth for Force India. The team lost all its constructors' points ahead of the weekend after it changed ownership and was forced to submit a new entry on Thursday, but looks set to start rebuilding its tally with both drivers firm fixtures in the top ten during practice. Nico Hulkenberg will also be targeting a Q3 appearance in the afternoon after setting the ninth fastest time in final practice.

Outside the top ten, Marcus Ericsson was 11th in the second Sauber ahead of Romain Grosjean, Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen and the two Toro Rossos of Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley. At the back of the field, Williams elevated themselves ahead of McLaren, although neither Fernando Alonso nor Stoffel Vandoorne set a time on the super-softs.

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