Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of the race weekend so far in free practice three in Spain, but Sebastian Vettel showed Scuderia Ferrari are in with a chance this weekend, ending only a tenth and a half behind.
Rosberg’s first soft tyre run of the day proved to be enough to get him to the top of the time sheets, and although his Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Vettel outpaced him in the first two sectors in later runs, they couldn’t match his time in the final sector.
Rosberg ultimately ended the session on top with a time of 1m23.078s, with team-mate Hamilton second and Vettel in third, the trio just 0.147s apart.
Behind those three Max Verstappen got the better of his new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo for the first time by going just under a tenth faster than him. Kimi Raikkonen could only manage sixth in the second Ferrari, with Valtteri Bottas (Williams Martini Racing) and Sergio Perez (Sahara Force India) behind him.
Elsewhere Daniil Kvyat outpaced Carlos Sainz Jr in his first race weekend back with Scuderia Toro Rosso, the Russian ending ninth to the Spaniard’s thirteenth, while Fernando Alonso gave hope of a Q3 appearance by getting his McLaren-Honda into the top ten for a third consecutive session.
It’s looking like another promising weekend for Rosberg though. A sensor issue towards the end of the session was his only cause for concern, but the team were able to fix it before the end of the hour.
Hamilton meanwhile will be concerned that once again he finds himself behind his team-mate. With the championship gap between the two already large he cannot afford to be behind Rosberg on a track where the pole-sitter goes on to win more often that not.
And with Vettel just behind them, both Mercedes drivers will know that any errors could lead to them not being on the front row of the grid.
Circuit de Catalunya Free Practice 3 Result
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