Leclerc makes it three in a row ahead of qualifying: Spanish GP practice round-up


Charles Leclerc once more headed practice for Spanish GP FP3, with Verstappen, Russell and Hamilton all close behind

22 SPA LEC 123

Leclerc set the pace again in FP3


Charles Leclerc made it three in a row by heading Free Practice 3 for the Spanish GP, with Max Verstappen, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton all not far behind.

The following trio were within 0.2sec of top spot, with local hero Carlos Sainz fifth, 0.3sec off his team-mate, meaning qualifying looks set to be closely contested this afternoon.

Things were hotting up in the midfield as Pierre Gasly had to park his smoking Alpha Tauri whilst the rear brakes on Mick Schumacher’s Haas caught fire, both having their sessions ended prematurely.

Read our the Spanish GP FP1, FP2 and FP3 round-ups below.



Most cars got out on a scorching hot 46C track early, with Max Verstappen posting a 1min 23.163sec on the hard tyre to show early intent.

Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was porpoising significantly as he went down the straight, but it mattered relatively little as the Monegasque then went fastest by 0.343sec from his Dutch rival.

The Red Bull driver immediately bested the Ferrari again by almost a tenth and a half, with best of the rest Daniel Ricciardo 0.6sec back in the opening exchanges.

There appeared to be issues for other drivers – Sebastian Vettel was out of his heavily modified Aston Martin and watching the action on garage screens, whilst mechanics were working on Mick Schumacher’s Haas also.

01 VERSTAPPEN Max (nld), Red Bull Racing RB18, action during the Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Premio de Espana 2022, 6th round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, from May 20 to 22, 2022 in Montmelo, Spain - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Verstappen could possibly have gone fastest but for slower cars holding him up

Florent Gooden / DPPI

There were issues for Esteban Ocon, who reported his car was refusing to turn properly at high speed and for Yuki Tsunoda, who told his team “something broke between my back and the seat”.

No such hiccups for Verstappen and Red Bull though, as the Dutchman went even faster with a 1min 21.876sec.

Russell managed to move improve gradually with a time 0.970sec off Verstappen, whilst his Mercedes predecessor Valtteri Bottas was languishing down in 16th, 3.611sec off the Red Bull.

With almost half the session gone, finally Sebastian Vettel managed to get out on track, his first representative time 3.74sec off the top.

Red Bull and Williams were using up the first of their allocated ‘rookie driver’ cameo slots, with Robert Kubica doing the same for Alfa Romeo. Whilst Juri Vips appeared to be cruising round doing data gathering for the former, Nyck de Vries strapped on a set of soft tyres and went fourth with a 1min 22.936sec for Williams.

DE VRIES Nyck (ned), Reserve Driver of Mercedes AMG F1 Team testing the Williams Racing FW44, portrait during the Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Premio de Espana 2022, 6th round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, from May 20 to 22, 2022 in Montmelo, Spain - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Nyck de Vries impressed on his Williams cameo

Florent Gooden / DPPI

This was a sign for others to follow suit, with local hero Carlos Sainz easily heading the times on a 1min 19.907sec using the soft tyre also.

Lando Norris sampled the same compound, but his time was 1.3sec off the Spaniard, with Tsunoda a further 0.6sec further off.

The two Mercedes followed suit – George Russell clocked a 1min 20.590sec to go second, with Hamilton 0.3sec slower than that, the seven-time champion suffering DRS issues.

Verstappen wound himself up to go faster through the first two sectors, but was baulked by traffic through the final section meaning the time was only good enough for second.

Hamilton suffered similar but worse, a slow Fernando Alonso causing him to dip a wheel in the gravel at Turn 9 – stewards announced that the incident would be investigated post-session, with the Spaniard already called to a meeting by the FIA for heavy criticism he gave officials in one of the press conferences.

KUBICA Robert (pol), Reserve Driver of Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN, portrait during the Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Premio de Espana 2022, 6th round of the 2022 FIA Formula One World Championship, on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, from May 20 to 22, 2022 in Montmelo, Spain - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

Robert Kubica also made an appearance for Alfa Romeo

Florent Gooden / DPPI

There was almost nothing to choose between the two Scuderia men, a soft-tyred Leclerc going 0.07sec quicker than his Spanish team-mate to now head the timing screens.

Juri Vips was afforded the chance to try out the Pirelli soft compound, but he remained rooted to the bottom, 4.3sec off Leclerc.

Once soft tyres were put on Alonso’s car, the Spaniard obliged with a 1min 20.768sec to put him fifth.

Russell was trying to further improve but came in close quarters of one Red Bull, saying “What the hell, I almost crashed into the back of him!”

He wasn’t alone in searching the asphalt real estate, with every car on track at the end of the session using the soft tyre.

Ultimately though, the overall picture remained the same. Leclerc was fastest, a sliver ahead of his team-mate Sainz, with Verstappen three tenths back.

Russell and Hamilton looked solid in fourth and sixth, with Alonso inserting himself into the Mercedes sandwich.



Verstappen, Leclerc and Sainz immediately got back to it, trading fastest times at the top once more.

It was the Red Bull who set the early pace, his a 1min 20.932sec 0.046sec ahead of Sainz.

There has already been much discussion about the legality of the new Aston Martin sidepods in their similarity to those of the Red Bulls, with both teams and the FIA releasing statements on the matter – Vettel did little to quell the situation by going fastest with a 1min 20.703sec on soft tyres.

Ironically it was Verstappen who then took six tenths off that time, before Sainz sent the home crowd into raptures himself for a period with a 1min 19.990sec.

Further back Valtteri Bottas had to pull his Alfa Romeo off the road just after Turn 1, telling he team “Something’s broken.” It was later revealed to be an issue with his Ferrari power-unit.

Meanwhile Leclerc had now spoilt the Spanish fiesta, besting his team-mate’s lap by three tenths.

Mercedes of George Russell in practice for the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix

Upgrades appeared to have positive effect on the Mercedes car


The Mercedes appeared to be in better form as the session wore on, George Russell setting a time 0.1sec off the Ferrari to find himself second. .

Alex Albon ran wide at Turn 9, running harshly over the rumble strips, the Thai driver telling his Williams team to check the floor.

Back at the sharp end, Lewis Hamilton hooked up his Mercedes W13 to clock a 1min 19.874, just two tenths off leader Verstappen.

“Every time we touch the throttle we go sideways,” complained Gasly, struggling with traction in his AlphaTauri.

From here on in it was mainly heavy fuel longer runs for drivers, but the session didn’t go without incident.

Lando Norris damaged his MCL26 after running over the kerbs, meaning he was ruled out of the rest of FP2, before Sergio Perez did similar at Turn 7, ploughing through the gravel, but without causing the same kind of damage to his Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso again raised local hopes with strong pace, setting a 1min 20.203sec to go sixth, whilst Mick Schumacher set a time good enough for the top ten and just over a second away from the top Ferrari.

“The tyres are going to pieces,” said Leclerc after spending eight laps on a set of mediums, as he once more went wide, as Carlos Sainz also reported “quite a lot of degradation”.

As the chequered flag came out though, it was Leclerc still on top, with the two Mercedes close behind. With Sainz and Verstappen in close quarters too, tomorrow’s qualifying session could well be a highly competitive affair.




Verstappen ultimately filled out second spot


Lando Norris was the first driver to set a time with a 1min 23.641sec as final practice got underway.

Things didn’t start so smoothly for Pierre Gasly though, whose smoking AlphaTauri was pushed back in the garage – not long after Yuki Tsunoda launched his car over the kerbs, but didn’t appear to sustain any significant damage.

Mick Schumacher was next to feel the heat, his rear brakes catching fire out on track. The flames took a while to be extinguished, the extent of the damage meaning the young German is unlikely to make qualifying.

Sainz had no such issues – a 1min 20.278sec, but this was then bettered to the tune of 0.15sec by his team-mate Leclerc.

Many cars were slow to venture out on track, with Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo the next closest to the Scuderia, just over a second behind, but George Russell ventured out and went third fastest with 20 minutes of the session gone – his 1min 21.129sec 0.8sec off the pace at that point.


Problems for Gasly…


Hamilton was four tenths off his Mercedes stablemate before the Englishman was told he had a DRS issue, putting him back in the pits.

Venturing out with 25 minutes gone was Verstappen at last, and the Dutchman wasted no time in getting on the pace.

He immediately set the fastest first sector of anyone, ultimately posting a time the best part of 0.2sec off Leclerc, second-fastest at that point. The Dutchman was far from happy though.

“The car just doesn’t turn at low speed, Turn 5 it’s terrible, last chicane as well,” he told his team on the radio.

DRS issues fixed, Hamilton went for another fastest lap, but he could only manage one 0.9sec off Leclerc, good enough for sixth.

As most of the front-runners put on soft tyres, Leclerc set down an ominous marker: 1min 19.772sec meant he was now 3 tenths clear of the field.


…and Schumacher


Magnussen and Bottas looked the most impressive of the midfield runners, fifth and sixth respectively, 0.8sec and 1sec off Leclerc.

Russell then bested the Monegasque by 0.22sec in the first sector, his completed lap putting him second, 0.15sec away from the top the table.

Both Red Bulls headed out in formation on soft tyres with Verstappen immediately setting his best first sector and ultimately posting a lap a 1min 19.844sec good enough for second.

Hamilton then improved to fourth as the clock ticked down, whilst Norris put on a set of softs to go sixth. The former then looked to go even quicker, but a huge slide in the middle sector stymied his effort.

As the flag fell, Leclerc remained on top, with Verstappen, Russell and Hamilton all within two tenths of the Ferrari driver.