BARCELONA, Spain -- Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in final practice at the Spanish Grand Prix as Mercedes looked like the team to beat ahead of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
Hamilton held a 0.013s margin over his teammate Valtteri Bottas at the end of the session, which was red flagged with a few minutes remaining when Brendon Hartley had a big accident at the high-speed Turn 9. The Toro Rosso driver was on his last flying lap before of the morning when he dipped two wheels on the grass on the entry to the sixth-gear left-hander and spun into the barriers backwards.
Hartley walked away from the accident and was declared fit to continue after a trip to the medical centre, but his chassis, engine and gearbox is unlikely to continue with him after the gearbox and rear assembly snapped off the rest of the car as it was being loaded onto a flat bed truck. It is likely the New Zealander will miss qualifying as Toro Rosso assess the extent of the damage and rebuilds his car.
Although the incident happened right at the end of the session, none of the top six drivers were on a personal best at the time. Therefore, the order at the chequered flag is representative of the competitive picture this weekend, with Mercedes holding a 0.25s margin over Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel was the fastest of the two Ferraris by 0.031s, with another 0.4s margin over the fastest Red Bull driver, Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo's first flying lap was aborted after his tyres weren't in the correct operation window for the first few corners. He had then completed a cool down lap before trying again, but his scrappy preparation means he didn't get the full performance from his car. Nevertheless, it looks like the Renault-powered Red Bull won't have the performance to trouble the front row of the grid this weekend.
Max Verstappen failed to set a flying lap after suffering a technical issue earlier in the session. According to the team, he pressed the overtake button while attempting a practice start and the combination caused a malfunction that kept his car in the garage for the rest of the session.
Verstappen's absence allowed Kevin Magnussen to feature in the top six for Haas and his lap time was just 0.376 off Ricciardo's best effort. Teammate Romain Grosjean was a further 0.4s off after a trip through the gravel at Turn 1 on his first attempt at a flying lap.
Carlos Sainz was eighth fastest for Renault, 0.064s quicker than compatriot Fernando Alonso in the updated McLaren. Pierre Gasly rounded off the top ten for Toro Rosso, putting extra pressure on Hartley following his accident.
Nico Hulkenberg was 11th fastest ahead of Verstappen's out-of-position Red Bull, Esteban Ocon, Stoffel Vandoorne and another impressive performance from Charles Leclerc in the Sauber.
Sergio Perez was 16th ahead of Hartley, Ericsson and the two Williams, which once again finished in 19th and 20th.