Valtteri Bottas topped a free practice session for the first time all season as Williams hit the front ahead of qualifying in Austria. The Finn edged ahead of Lewis Hamilton and his own teammate Felipe Massa in the final minute with the top three covered by less than a tenth of a second at the Red Bull Ring.
The signs had been there in the early stages of the session with Massa going quickest twenty minutes in before trading fastest times with Bottas in the sister car. The pair continued to work their way down the 1:10s on soft tyres but their supremacy was ended by Nico Rosberg at the end of his prime tyre run, the championship leader setting a 1:10.058.
Inevitably, the final leaderboard would be decided by the supersoft tyre runs and Fernando Alonso was the first frontrunner to stake his claim, going four thousandths quicker than Rosberg, but it was his former teammate that finally broke the 70 second barrier, Massa going fastest on a 1:09.901.
Rosberg had a scruffy initial run on the option tyres, keeping him back in second, and it was left to his title rival Hamilton to uphold Mercedes honour, clocking a 1:09.898. Williams would have the final word in FP3 though and as the Silver Arrows failed to better their lap times from yesterday, Bottas pipped the pair of them with a 1:09.848, his best lap of the weekend so far.
Massa maintained third while Daniil Kvyat put in a stellar last ditch lap to go fourth, just 0.079s off the ultimate pace. Rosberg was relegated to fifth ahead of Alonso with Daniel Ricciardo leading the Red Bull challenge in seventh, separated from his teammate by Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.
A number of drivers will enter qualifying on their back foot with Sergio Perez failing to set a time on the option tyres after sliding off at the last corner but Jenson Button only completed four laps all morning as his McLaren was struck with brake problems.