Melbourne, FP3: Vettel tops wet-dry final practice

Räikkönen also benefited for a late switch to slick

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By Olivier Ferret

24 March 2018 - 05:05
Melbourne, FP3: Vettel tops wet-dry (...)

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel grabbed top spot in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix with a late surge on ultrasoft tyres at the end of a we-dry session at Albert Park.

With the track damp and greasy until the closing stages most teams opted to play safe and remain on intermediate tyres during the final minutes of the session, with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen setting the pace with a lap of 1:31.680 on the green-banded tyres with just a minute to go.

Vettel, though had bolted on a set of ultrasofts and seconds later crossed the line at the end of a qualifying-style run that netted a P1 time of 1:26.067 as the flag fell. That put him more than five seconds clear of Verstappen.

The German’s team-mate Kimi Räikkönen also benefited for a late switch to slick with the Finn slotting into second place 2.4s behind Vettel in the final seconds ahead of the similarly shod Marcus Ericsson of Sauber, who took third with a time of 1:28.890s.

The session began in difficult conditions following early thunderstorms and the opening part of the hour-long session was conducted on full wet Pirelli tyres, gingerly testing the conditions.

Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg was the first to put a time on the board as the switch intermediate tyres began. He made steady improvements but his time at the top of the order was brief, with Verstappen jumping to P1 with his first lap on inters, a lap that included a nervous moment midway through the lap as the back of his star stepped out and he almost collided with the wall.

Daniel Ricciardo, who was overnight handed a three-place grid penalty for an FP3 infraction, then made it a Red Bull one-two and thereafter the times began to drop as the conditions improved.

The result was that behind Verstappen on the end-of-session timesheet, Carlos Sainz took fourth place with a late run that yielded a best time of 1:33.172, while Ricciardo dropped back to sixth place.

Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Mercedes with a time of 1:34.174. That was just five hundredths of a second clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton who had a worrying moment when he encountered technical problems that prevented him from pulling away. A change of steering wheel righted the problem, however.

Ninth place went to Stoffel Vandoorne, with McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso tenth, some eight seconds off the pace of Vettel.

Pos.DriverTeamTimeLaps
01 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:26.067 15
02 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:28.499 13
03 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:28.890 14
04 Max Verstappen Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:31.680 8
05 Carlos Sainz Renault F1 1:33.172 11
06 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:24.721 14
07 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG 1:24.159 14
08 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG 1:34.225 7
09 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:34.233 15
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:34.298 13
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 1:34.990 16
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda 1:35.438 16
13 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:35.589 16
14 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:35.828 8
15 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:36.171 6
16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:36.448 12
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:36.807 7
18 Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 1:38.482 8
19 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes -:—.--- 1
20 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes -:—.--- 1

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