Sainz Edges Norris in Thrilling Final Practice Session Ahead of Qualifying


Carlos Sainz electrified the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya by setting the fastest time in the third and final free practice session (FP3) for the Spanish Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver edged out McLaren's Lando Norris by a razor-thin margin of 0.03 seconds, capping off a dramatic and eventful session on Saturday.

Sainz's impressive lap of 1m13.013s came in the dying moments of the session, besting Norris' earlier benchmark. Norris had initially set a strong pace with a 1m13.043s on his second attempt after aborting his first flying lap. McLaren's preparations had faced a setback earlier in the day due to a fire in their motorhome, but both Norris and teammate Oscar Piastri managed to get sufficient track time.

The session began with a slow start, allowing Lewis Hamilton a clear track for the opening five minutes. Hamilton set an early soft-tyre benchmark with a 1m14.178s, a time notably slower than his best effort in FP2. He soon improved to a 1m13.865s, only to be outpaced by Max Verstappen's 1m14.237s on medium tyres. However, it was George Russell who emerged fastest in this phase, clocking a 1m13.431s to take the top spot temporarily.

Ferrari's drivers quickly joined the fray, with Sainz and Charles Leclerc sandwiching themselves between the two Mercedes. Sainz was just a tenth of a second behind Russell, while Leclerc trailed his teammate by a mere three-hundredths after missing much of FP2.

Norris then slipped in between Russell and the Ferraris with a lap time on medium tyres that was 0.001s quicker than Sainz’s previous best. Despite the disruption caused by the fire, McLaren’s pace was evident, though Norris encountered a scare towards the end of the session. Leclerc cut across a slow-moving Norris into Turn 6, leading to minor contact between the two.

As the session progressed, both Mercedes drivers continued to improve. Hamilton secured a purple middle sector but lost three tenths due to oversteer, while Russell's lap came within 0.121s of Norris' time. Verstappen and Russell eventually finished fourth and fifth fastest, respectively.

Hamilton's session wasn't without incident, as he had a slight collision with Lance Stroll. Attempting to yield to the Aston Martin driver at Turn 5, Hamilton appeared to back off, but Stroll misjudged the corner and made contact with the Mercedes.

Sergio Perez, facing a grid penalty, posted the seventh fastest time, narrowly ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon. Fernando Alonso and Piastri rounded out the top ten.

As the teams shift their focus to qualifying, Sainz's performance will undoubtedly boost Ferrari's confidence. However, the tight margins at the top suggest a fiercely competitive session ahead. The stage is set for an exciting battle for pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix.

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