Vettel leaps to the front as Ferrari take charge of final practice

Sebastian Vettel was in impressive form in final practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, taking charge of proceedings by almost half a second from Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonwn.

It was a troubled session for Mercedes, with Valtteri Bottas only managing third fastest. And having led both sessions on Friday, Lewis Hamilton had a scruffy time on Saturday and was only fifth fastest behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Verstappen’s team mate Daniel Ricciardo was largely sidelined and managed only four laps in the session, with major engine issues hitting the RB14.

Chinese Grand Prix – Free Practice 3

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps

1
Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari
1:33.018s

14

2
Kimi Räikkönen
Ferrari
1:33.469s
+ 0.451s

21

3
Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes
1:33.761s
+ 0.743s

16

4
Max Verstappen
Red Bull
1:33.969s
+ 0.951s

14

5
Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes
1:34.057s
+ 1.039s

14

6
Kevin Magnussen
Haas
1:34.329s
+ 1.311s

25

7
Sergio Pérez
Force India
1:34.445s
+ 1.427s

14

8
Esteban Ocon
Force India
1:34.456s
+ 1.438s

16

9
Carlos Sainz
Renault
1:34.582s
+ 1.564s

20

10
Sergey Sirotkin
Williams
1:34.741s
+ 1.723s

13

11
Nico Hülkenberg
Renault
1:34.841s
+ 1.823s

16

12
Fernando Alonso
McLaren
1:34.851s
+ 1.833s

13

13
Stoffel Vandoorne
McLaren
1:34.977s
+ 1.959s

16

14
Brendon Hartley
Toro Rosso
1:34.991s
+ 1.973s

20

15
Daniel Ricciardo
Red Bull
1:35.061s
+ 2.043s

4

16
Pierre Gasly
Toro Rosso
1:35.079s
+ 2.061s

16

17
Lance Stroll
Williams
1:35.375s
+ 2.357s

16

18
Charles Leclerc
Sauber
1:35.497s
+ 2.479s

14

19
Marcus Ericsson
Sauber
1:35.679s
+ 2.661s

13

20
Romain Grosjean
Haas
1:35.756s
+ 2.738s

6

Free practice 3 got underway in chilly conditions, with grey and overcast skies threatening a continuation of the light rain that had effectively curtailed FP2 the previous day. The kerbs and astroturf on the run-offs were looking treacherously saturated with overnight precipitation.

Kimi Raikkonen set the first time of the day, but the Ferrari’s lap was affected by running up behind the Haas of Kevin Magnussen. The Finn’s second lap was also compromised when he ran deep into the final hairpin, which allowed Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg to take early control of the timing screens.

Ferrari soon shook off their early morning cobwebs and moved ahead of the field. Sebastian Vettel took charge with a lap of 1:33.689s on ultrasoft tyres, over a second faster than Raikkonen’s latest.

When Mercedes joined the fray on soft tyres, neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton were able to match or even get close to Vettel’s benchmark. Hamilton was looking particularly untidy, locking up, running off and spinning on multiple occasions during his runs.

Raikkonen was able to improve, and went to the top with a time of 1:33.469s which was two tenths faster than his team mate. However, an immediate response from Vettel put the four-time champion back in control with a time of 1:33.018s, fully 0.451s faster than anyone else.

Neither Mercedes driver seemed to find the grip or pace they wanted when they finally switched to the ultrasoft tyres for their final runs. Bottas ended the session a full 0.743s off Vettel’s target time, while Hamilton was over a second slower than his title rival.

Red Bull bided their time before Max Verstappen put in a strong lap to go fourth fastest ahead of Hamilton. However, not all was well for the Dutch driver who reported over the team radio that “every time I push to the limiter I lose speed”.

His team mate Daniel Ricciardo had been problems right from the start. His car began the session in the garage and up on stands as the engineers worked feverishly checking the gearbox. He eventually made it out, but completed only four laps before an apparent turbocharger failure sidelined him for the rest of the morning.

© WRI2

A virtual safety car was deployed to allow marshalls to recover the stricken car from where Ricciardo had been forced to park up in the final sector. Other drivers were warned to be alert for oil on the track. Red Bull now face a race against time to get him ready for qualifying.

“I think we’ve got a suspected turbo failure,” team principal Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1. “That is what the analysis is at the moment … Whether it has damaged the combustion engine, only time will tell.”

Magnussen had a strong morning, the Haas ending FP3 best of the rest in sixth place ahead of the two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon which had also found some solid form overnight. Carlos Sainz was ninth fastest and his team mate Hulkenberg 11th, the Renault pair straddling the Williams of Sergey Sirotkin which was looking promisingly quick in Shanghai.

Fernando Alonso was 12th fastest, but McLaren had early issues with Stoffel Vandoorne’s car. The team was unable to pick up telemetry from the MCL33. He was recalled to the garage for a fix, and went on to complete 16 laps with a best time of 1:34.977s putting him 13th fastest.

Haas also had problems with the brake-by-wire system on Romain Grosjean’s car. He completed only six laps in the one-hour session and was slowest of the 20 runners.

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