Hamilton leads final European GP practice in Baku

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Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets for Mercedes in the final practice session for the European Grand Prix on Saturday in Baku.

FP3 saw drivers attempt to dial in around the streets of Baku ahead of qualifying later today, having spent much of Friday learning the track.

Hamilton completed a hat-trick of practice P1s for Mercedes in Azerbaijan, posting a fastest time of 1:44.352 in the final minute of the session to edge out teammate Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg had led for much of the session, enjoying an advantage of nine-tenths of a second over the field after completing his qualifying simulation late in the session.

Hamilton ultimately won the intra-team battle, but Mercedes pulled well clear of the rest of the pack whose charge was led by Force India.

Nico Hulkenberg repeated the team’s impressive Friday pace to finish the session third, but its session ended under a cloud after Sergio Perez crashed with a few seconds remaining.

The Mexican driver finished the session sixth in the final standings, but has left his team with a race against time to fix the car in time for qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with both drivers seemingly out of the running to win in Baku given Mercedes’ pace. Max Verstappen finished seventh in the second Red Bull behind Perez.

Jenson Button continued McLaren’s strong start to the weekend by finishing eighth-fastest, but was left frustrated after apparently being blocked by Hamilton late in the session. Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top 10 in FP3.

Concerns about the safety at the Baku City Circuit led to minor changes being made overnight, including the removal of some curbs and the extension of the pit entry line.

Valtteri Bottas’ session came to an early end after a drain cover came loose in the pit lane and left a hole in the sidepod on his FW38 car, again raising concerns about the safety of the track. However, there were no other major gripes during the session, suggesting that the changes have solved many of Friday’s issues.

Qualifying for the European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 9am ET on Saturday.