The Mercedes driver was the first into the 1min 24s with 15 minutes gone, setting the pace on a 1min 24.511sec to lead by 1.4sec over Esteban Ocon and Norris with a new track record, beating Juan Pablo Montoya’s record from 2005 of a 1min 24.7sec.
Ocon improved his time to split the Mercedes duo with a very decent time on the hard tyres. His time was the next into the 24s to go within three tenths of Hamilton.
Carlos Sainz was limited in his running in the opening half hour. The Spaniard is another driver that will be taking a grid penalty this weekend for new power unit components as Ferrari introduces the new spec power unit in Sainz’s available pool. His first effort was disallowed for exceeding track limits, running wide at Turn 14.
Hamilton fitted some fresh softs with 30 minutes remaining but couldn’t improve his final sector from earlier. He lowered his 1min 24.250sec to go six-tenths clear. That benchmark was lowered again five minutes later while title rival Max Verstappen struggled.
He reported that he was generating no grip at the front end of his Red Bull, saying that the changes made in the garage hadn’t worked out and had made the handling worse. The Dutch driver was able to improve his time to go within 0.4sec of Hamilton’s effort.
Charles Leclerc jumped up to third in the final 20 minutes with Bottas dropping to fourth position.
Longer runs took up the remainder of the session though the more relevant race pace running will take place this afternoon.
The clouds had gathered but there was no signs of rain as the second practice session got underway.
Charles Leclerc set the early pace for Ferrari. The Monégasque driver set a 1min 24.102sec. While others posted times there was no new benchmark and drivers pitted for fresh tyres and switch to soft tyres.
Hamilton was the first to post an improvement on the softer rubber, setting a 1min 23.804sec to go fastest of all.
Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas couldn’t better that effort and the Finn ended up 0.4sec down on his team-mate’s time while Leclerc couldn’t retake the top spot on his soft shod run.
Both Hamilton and Verstappen reported balance issues on their runs. The Mercedes driver reported a lack of grip while Verstappen’s struggles from the first practice session continued as the team struggled to find the right balance. After more than one attempt, he narrowed the gap down to just over half a second, 0.6sec down on his title rival’s time. The time was only good enough to leave the Dutchman in fifth position.
Long runs took up much of the second practice session as drivers got to grips with the Istanbul Park circuit, one that was very different to the one that provided little in the way of grip a year ago.
Kimi Räikkönen suffered a peculiar issue with the drinks bottle leaking on him during the long runs. The Finn made his feelings known over team radio, providing less than satisfactory feedback on the team’s inability to get the simple things right.
Pierre Gasly was the driver to suffer a spin though. The AlphaTauri driver lost control over the kink of Turn 6, avoiding the barriers but flat-spotting his soft tyres.
Nicholas Latifi was the second driver to lose his car, spinning off track at Turn 9. There was one final drama as Ocon failed to select gear for his practice start on the grid following the end of the session, requiring marshals to recover his car after the chequered flag.
The heavens finally opened on Saturday and wet weather arrived in the morning for final practice.
It presented a headache for Red Bull and Verstappen following Friday’s running. The gap to Hamilton in both sessions was sizeable and the Dutch driver struggled to find a balance that suited the car around the Istanbul Circuit.
The weather meant that there was no rush to get out on circuit as the lights went green at the end of the pit lane.
AlphaTauri’s Gasly was the first to brave conditions on full wets eight minutes into the session. He was followed out by team-mate Yuki Tsunoda. Both set a lap time but it were some 16sec down on the fastest efforts from Friday.
As the track began to fill up, AlphaTauri reported conditions were close to intermediates after Gasly surmised his wet tyres were overheating in the conditions. The water-blasted track surface was providing plenty more grip than last season in similar weather.
Along with the early running and rays of sunshine, the track was drying quickly with 15 minutes gone. Norris was the first to switch to intermediates but couldn’t beat ex-team-mate Sainz’s 1min 36. on full wets.
Hamilton emerged from the garage on intermediates with 20 minutes gone just as Gasly had an aquaplanning moment and spin through Turn 11. He recovered to the pits at the end of the lap as his error was repeated by Nikita Mazepin moments later who likewise escaped unscathed.
George Russell was the next to suffer a moment but wasn’t as lucky. The Williams driver caught standing water and pirouetted into the gravel at Turn 2 and was beached on intermediates. The stranded car brought out the red flags.
The session went back to green with half an hour remaining. Times rapidly improved as the track continued to dry out with drivers out on intermediates.
Verstappen leapt to the top 1.1sec clear on his first flying lap from Hamilton and Antonio Giovinazzi as weather radars indicated the rain was moving away from the circuit. The Red Bull driver was the next to spin but keep going, dropping the back end at Turn 9. The error was repeated by Vettel a few minutes later.
The spin didn’t dent any confidence in Verstappen, the Red Bull driver topped the times with a 1min 31.043sec ahead of Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz and Räikkönen with 20 minutes left of FP3.
Hamilton was down in 18th and out of the car in comparison, his running ending early with his grid penalty hanging over him for qualifying. Gasly improved to a 1min 30.447sec to top the session with 15 minutes remaining and his time would remain fastest despite an improvement by Verstappen in the final minute.