SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) — World champion Lewis Hamilton apologized to his Mercedes team after a rare mistake saw him crash during the third and final practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.
The runaway Formula One leader lost control coming out of the Fanges chicane, veering left at full speed into the protective tire barriers and mangling the nose of his car.
“I’m in the wall, guys. Sorry,” said Hamilton, who is chasing a sixth F1 title and leads teammate Valtteri Bottas by 62 points overall.
The session was interrupted as Hamilton’s car was taken away on the back of a lorry. The British driver walked slowly back to the team garage and his team faced a race against the clock to get it repaired in time for qualifying later Saturday.
Meanwhile, Ferrari made it a hat trick of 1-2s in practice with Charles Leclerc .451 seconds quicker than Sebastian Vettel in warm and sunny conditions in the Ardennes Forest.
They topped one practice each on Friday and again looked significantly quicker than Mercedes in terms of straight-line speed on F1’s longest track at 7 kilometers (4.3 miles).
Leclerc’s leading time was about half a second quicker than Bottas in third and 1.36 faster than Hamilton in seventh. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault), Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Sergio Perez (Racing Point) were all quicker than Hamilton.
Ferrari is seeking its first win of the season after 12 largely disappointing races. Vettel’s last win was on this track last year. There have been 20 GPs since.
It was a tricky day for Hamilton on Friday, too, as he experienced a throttle problem in the first practice and had visibility problems with his helmet visor in the second.