SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS: Kimi Raikkonen topped the times for Ferrari ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in Saturday’s intriguing final free practice for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The newly-married 36-year-old Finn clocked a best lap in one minute and 47.974 seconds to finish two-tenths clear of Australian Ricciardo, whose Red Bull team-mate and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen missed the session due to mechanical problems.
Verstappen, who topped the times in Friday’s practice, had to sit and watch the action in frustration, as did thousands of his fans whose presence increased attendance by around 25 per cent, according to organisers.
“It’s the Max-factor,” they were quoted saying after another 5,000 tickets were sold overnight following Verstappen’s success.
Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was third in the second Ferrari ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams and, remarkably, defending world champion and current championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.
German Nico Hulkenberg was sixth for Force India ahead of compatriot Nico Rosberg, seventh in the second Mercedes on a weekend when he seeks to take advantage of the penalties that will force Hamilton to start from the back of the grid.
On another hot day in the Ardennes, 31-year-old Briton Hamilton took his third new power-unit of the weekend – increasing his grid penalty to at least 55 places ahead of Sunday’s race - and concentrated on race set-up until he delivered one final flurry of pace on super-soft tyres to outpace Rosberg.
Hamilton leads Rosberg by 19 points with nine races remaining and his speedy single lap was a playful demonstration of what he might do if he was trying to take pole in qualifying.
The session was run in hot weather with temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius and track temperatures above 35, conditions that tested tyre-wear and durability. --AFP