Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel topped the times in the final practice session of the weekend ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, one tenth of a second clear of Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen, in a session that the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team did not really show their true hand.
Vettel set a time of 1:40.775 to take the top spot on a set of ultra-soft tyres, and Ferrari look to be competitive here, though the conditions experienced in FP3 are not representative of those in qualifying or the race, as it takes place much earlier in the day, when temperatures are higher.
Verstappen, who also looks strong at the Yas Marina Circuit especially over long runs, split the two Ferrari’s, with Kimi Raikkonen taking third place, just two tenths off the pace of his team-mate at the top of the times.
Lewis Hamilton was fourth, and one tenth up on team-mate Nico Rosberg, but the Brit was complaining of issues with his brakes, in particular the front right, throughout the session. The silver arrows drivers also did not come out until the final minutes of the FP3 session to complete their flying laps on the ultra-soft tyres, so there is definitely more to come from those guys.
Daniel Ricciardo was sixth and a whopping nine tenths off the pace of team-mate Verstappen, but the Australian also did not really show his hand in the latter part of the session and spent most of FP3 on the harder super-soft tyre. Will Red Bull try to qualify on that compound of rubber to give them an advantage at the start of the race?
Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team driver Sergio Perez was seventh, one tenth up on team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in eighth. The German had a fuel system problem which the team only spotted as they fired up the VJM09 at the start of the session, and so did not get out onto track until halfway through FP3.
Williams Martini Racing driver Valtteri Bottas was ninth, just one tenth off the pace of the Force India’s, with both teams looking close performance wise here in Abu Dhabi.
Esteban Gutierrez, who was the first of the Haas F1 team drivers, completed the top ten ahead of McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team driver Fernando Alonso who was three tenths further back, so we could see a close battle for the last couple of places in Q3 later today.
Jolyon Palmer had a relatively good session to finish twelfth for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, just four hundredths of a second quicker than fellow countryman Jenson Button.
Felipe Massa was fourteenth and looked to be struggling out there today as he span the Fw38 on a n umber of occasions as he pushed it to its limits. The Brazilian was just ahead of Romain Grosjean who once again had a list of issues to complain about over team radio.
Kevin Magnussen was sixteenth, just one tenth clear of Manor Racing MRT driver Pascal Wehrlein who could have a chance of making it through to Q2 in qualifying with the times being close in that lower order.
It was a poor session again for the Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers who also had issues on Friday with Danill Kvyat experiencing two punctures to his left rear tyre.
The punctures are being caused by wheel failures, caused by the suspension under cornering load, but Toro Rosso are still not quite sure what the exact issue is. Both drivers spent most of the session in the pits whilst the engineers tried to get to the bottom of their problems.
Carlos Sainz Jr, who immediately span the STR11 at Turn 18 when he did finally get out on track, finished down in eighteenth place, having completed just X laps.
Sauber F1 Team driver Felipe Nasr was nineteenth, ahead of Esteban Ocon, with the luckless Kvyat ending the session down in twenty-first, ahead of Marcus Ericsson who brought up the rear.
Heading into qualifying we look to have a close battle on our hands. Mercedes have the out right pace, despite not complete full qualifying simulations for us to really know their true performance level, but both Ferrari and Red Bull, in the hands of Verstappen, also look competitive, which could make for an exciting session later today.
2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – FP3 Results
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