There were ten minutes left in the third free practice of this Belgian Grand Prix and we seemed to be heading for a very quiet session in the gray and cool (16° C against 32 two days ago) at Spa-Francorchamps. And then, suddenly, Charles Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari at the entrance to the fast chicane at Fagnes. The Monegasque saw his single-seater come to rest against the barrier, in the gravel, after a shock of medium intensity. Luckily, even though his front wing was damaged, he was able to drive off and bring his Ferrari back to the garage for a thorough inspection. He finished the session with the 7th time only, just over a second behind the leader, Sergio Perez.
A chasm behind the Red Bulls
The Mexican, rather struggling until then, came to set the best time in his last flying lap in 1’45”047. He edged teammate Max Verstappen by 0.137. The reigning world champion had a moment of hesitation when he didn’t see a brief yellow flag before the final chicane. But the Dutchman was cleared by the management and would not have lost much since he will start at the back of the grid tomorrow anyway because of the penalties for changing parts at the level of the engine and the gearbox.
Behind the Red Bulls, it is a chasm that we find since the third, Carlos Sainz is pushed back to almost eight tenths (+0”777). Lando Norris (McLaren), who will also be heavily penalized, is fourth (+0”918) and Fernando Alonso (Alpine), fifth (+1”014). The Mercedes, in difficulty since Friday, could not do better than sixth with George Russell (+1”024) and twelfth with Lewis Hamilton (+1”722).
On the French side, Esteban Ocon managed the ninth fastest time (+1”554) but was hampered during his last attempt at a fast lap while Pierre Gasly is tenth with his Alpha Tauri (+1”557).
Difficult session for the Haas who drove less than the other teams, Mick Schumacher even being limited to six laps due to a sensor problem. Note that it was announced during this hour of driving that Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo) would be added to the long list of drivers penalized for unauthorized part changes (along with Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Ocon, Schumacher and his teammate Bottas).