Sainz heads extremely closely matched field in final practice

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz set the benchmark in the third and final practice session at the Sapnish Grand Prix with the four leading outfits separated by tiny margins. F1Technical's Balazs Szabo delivers his report from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Having expressed his fears regarding Ferrari's race pace and tyre management, Carlos Sainz demonstrated his car's excellent qualifying performance.

The Spaniard set the benchmark in the final practice session, posting his best lap time on Pirelli's red-walled soft compound.

His team-mate Charles Leclerc struggled for pace yesterday, but he looked more comfortable today as he ended the final one-hour session inP3.

The Monegasque experimented on his low-fuel laps, trying to find the best compromise between the opening segment of the lap and the final sector.

McLaren's Lando Norris racked up fewer laps than his rivals, but his quickest time was enough for him to take second.

It is worth noting that the Briton made a mistake on his first lap during his final stint which meant that he achieved his quickest lap during his second attempt when Pirelli's softs lost their peak grip.

Championship runaway leader Max Verstappen completed a heavy-fuel race simulation run midway through the session. The Dutchman ended up fourth, only a tenth off Sainz's benchmark.

The two Mercedes drivers looked strong after the opening stint, but they slightly dropped down the order when the top drivers completed their qualifying simulations on their second fresh set of Pirelli tyres.