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Hamilton fastest but Ferrari respond to Mercedes pace – FP3 Report

Australian Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton & Sebastian Vettel traded fastest times in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at Albert Park in Melbourne.

The final practice session turned out to be a topsy-turvy battle as the pace picked up ahead of qualifying. After a slow start to the hour, it was Lewis Hamilton who set the first representative fastest time with a mid 1:23 before Ferrari finally managed to show the pace expected of them.

Sebastian Vettel, armed with the Soft tyre, put in a 1:22.556 to put in the fastest time of the weekend with fifteen minutes remaining. This was closely shadowed by teammate Charles Leclerc, making it a Ferrari 1-2 and both ahead of the quickest time Hamilton managed from FP2 yesterday. However, the reigning Champion put on a fresh set of Soft tyres and then put in a 1:22.292. This proved to be the fastest time of the hour and for the weekend so far and placed him a quarter of a second clear at the chequered flag.

The Ferraris were thus pushed down to settle in P2 & P3, with Leclerc just under two tenths behind Vettel. Next up, it was Haas. The American team proved very impressive as they slotted into P4 & P5 with Romain Grosjean & Kevin Magnussen respectively. The French driver was 0.8 seconds down on Hamilton’s time, with Magnussen a second from the front in what underlined Haas’ strong pace from pre-season testing.

After spending a long time on the Medium tyre, Red Bull ventured out on the Soft tyre in the final fifteen minutes. It was Pierre Gasly who led the way for the British team as he went P6 and a second from the front. This was just clear of Valtteri Bottas in P7. The Mercedes driver put in a slightly scruffy final sector and finished ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, RBR’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault rounded out the top ten.

Nico Hulkenberg was P11 for Renault, Antonio Giovinazzi P12 for Alfa Romeo and Carlos Sainz P13 for McLaren. Sergio Perez was the lead driver for Racing Point by going P14, ahead of Alex Albon’s Toro Rosso. The bottom five was made up of Lance Stroll’s Racing Point, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa. The Finn encountered traffic on his final Soft tyre run, meaning his time wasn’t particularly representative. Lando Norris was P18, just ahead of the two Williams drivers. Robert Kubica in P20 made light contact with the pitwall coming into the pits, knocking off a small bit of his car.

Click here for the complete classification from FP3.

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Thomas Maher

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