SEBASTIAN Vettel headed the final F1 track running before qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel led a Ferrari 1-2 in a weather affected Practice 3 at Albert Park, a session starting out very wet before drying enough for slicks at the end.
But a form guide it is not; neither Mercedes nor Red Bull did quick laps on slicks during the session.
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A gearbox issue delayed Lance Stroll’s start to FP3, the Williams garage a hive of activity as the session got underway.
The track was still quite wet at the start of the session, but with the rain having stopped prior to the session, the times tumbled quickly as drivers switched from Pirelli’s wets to their intermediate rubber.
Verstappen was the first person to lay down a properly quick lap on intermediates, jumping to the top of the order with a 1m35.548. Ricciardo soon joined him in P2, 0.4s adrift.
About the same time, Hamilton reported a problem with his car while trying to leave the pits.
The No. 44 Mercedes was pushed back into the garage to look for an electrical issue, swapping out his steering wheel among the changes.
By the half-way mark, Fernando Alonso reported the track was drying quite quickly, and a switch to dry tyres wouldn’t be far away. Race direction agreed, enabling DRS in response.
Ricciardo then jumped to the top of the order, cutting three tenths off his teammate’s mark.
Alonso was next to jump to the top of the order, improving the P1 time by almost a second to a 1m34.298s.
The Silver Arrows soared to the top with 25 minutes remaining. Bottas moved to the top on a 1m34.174, followed by Hamilton, electrical issue sorted, only 0.051s adrift.
The Williams crew finished the repair work on Stroll’s gearbox to have the Canadian teen join the session with 15 minutes remaining.
Force India waited even later than that, waiting until the final few minutes to send Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon out onto the track for timed laps.
Stoffel Vandoorne was another late improver, besting teammate Alonso to jump to P3 just 0.008s shy of Hamilton.
It was with three minutes remaining that the times really started to tumble again.
Sainz jumped to P1 a full second clear of the field on a fresh set of intermediates, matching Bottas’ best in the middle sector but fastest of all in the other two.
Verstappen was next to bolt to the top, undercutting Sainz by 1.4s as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds for the first time all day.
As the Red Bull crossed the line, the timing screens showed Vettel setting the fastest opening sector of all by over a second.
The Ferrari was fitted with ultrasofts, Vettel finishing the lap to undercut Verstappen’s mark by a whopping 5.6 seconds.
Meantime, a fuming Alonso sat in the pit box, having hoped he’d be unleashed to pull a similar lap on slicks.
“I don’t know what we’re doing,” he said to his team over the radio.
Raikkonen and Ericsson also completed laps on supersoft tyres to complete the top three, decreasing Vettel’s advantage to a more sensible 2.4 seconds.