Formula 1

Vettel heads up FP3, Stroll crashes

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Sebastian Vettel - FP3, Australian Grand Prix. Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel topped the times and set the fastest lap ever recorded at Melbourne, in the final practice session of the weekend ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, The German was half a second clear of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Valtteri Bottas, in a session that was ended early due to a collision for Williams Martini Racing driver Lance Stroll.

Vettel set a time of 1:23.380 relatively early in the session after the Italian team decided to go straight out on the ultra-soft tyre. The German had just team-mate Kimi Raikkonen for company on the purple walled tyre at that early stage, and the pair battled it out for the top spot, with Vettel eventually taking the edge with a time of 1:23.989.

With twelve minutes of the session gone however, Raikkonen sustained a puncture and his engine stalled whilst the Finn was headed for turn thirteen and the escape road. He did manage to make it back to the pits for a short time, before returning to the track with a fresh pair of tyres bolted on.

On his return the Ferrari duo returned to swapping times on the ultra-soft tyre, with Raikkonen briefly taking over in first place with a time of 1:23.988, before Vettel took back the advantage and returned to the head of the leader board, with a time of 1:23.380, and the unofficial lap record.

The other drivers delayed switching to the softest tyre compound until there were just twenty minutes of the session remaining, at which point they initially tried and failed to match the time set by Vettel.

Valtteri Bottas was the first to get close, setting a time of 1:23.859 to go second, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton moving into third, having initially set the fastest first sector of anyone, but losing that advantage after running wide at turn thirteen.

That is how the top three positions stayed when Stroll hit the wall at the exit of turn ten having just switched to the ultra-soft tyre. That saw the Canadian need a gearbox change ahead of qualifying, and with it a five second grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The incident also brought out the red flags, and prematurely put an end to the session, meaning the Mercedes boys lost any further chance of trying to topple Vettel at the top of the times.

Raikkonen’s time set earlier in the session saw him take fourth place, ahead of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver Nico Hulkenberg, who bolted on the purple walled tyre at the perfect moment, setting his best lap just before the red flags were waved.

Red Bull Racing driver Daniel Ricciardo was sixth, having struggled to get a decent lap in on the ultra-soft tyre, ahead of Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean.

Scuderia Toro Rosso drivers Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat lined up eighth and ninth, with just one tenth between them, with the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen completing the top ten.

Felipe Massa ended the session in eleventh, having suffered with brake problems throughout FP3, and having completed just seven laps, Max Verstappen was twelfth. The first Sahara Force India F1 Team driver was Sergio Perez in a disappointing thirteenth, ahead of the two McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Esteban Ocon was next, ahead of Stroll and Sauber F1 Team driver Marcus Ericsson and Renault Sport’s Jolyon Palmer. Antonio Giovinazzi, who replaces Pascal Wehrlein for the remainder of the Australian Grand Prix whilst the German recovers from his recent back injury, completed the times.

Albert Park Free Practice 3 Times

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