Lewis Hamilton has continued Mercedes’ dominance of Grand Prix practice sessions that has extended all the way to the opening practice of last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.
After defending Australian Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg headed the timesheets in both of Friday’s practice sessions, it was the turn of his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, to claim bragging rights ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying session at Albert Park.
Hamilton had a scrappy run en route to top spot on the timing screens, running wide at Turn 9 on one flying lap and repeating the feat at Turn 1 before he bobbed up towards the top of the timesheets. In the final minutes, he went out again for one last run and clocked three purple sectors to post a 1:27.867.
Moments later, Sebastian Vettel put his Ferrari second-fastest to become the first driver to split the Mercedes’ in the final reckoning. The German was still almost seven-tenths of a second adrift, suggesting it would take a miracle for any other team to topple the Silver Arrows in qualifying later today.
Rosberg consigned himself to the third-fastest time, electing to end his on-track running with around 10 minutes to go. The German also pushed hard, as evidenced by a Hamilton-style trip through the grass at the Turn 9 chicane.
The Williams of pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were up next and closely shadowed by the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen in the ‘best of the rest’ honours – the three cars were covered by barely one-tenth of a second on the stopwatch, which would suggest a tight scrap for the second row of the grid awaits us.
The Lotus pairing of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were next up, although both black-and-gold cars looked particularly ill-handling during the session with each driver featuring in a number of off-track replay shots. Maldonado was the last of the drivers to lap within two seconds of Hamilton’s session-topping time.
The Scuderia Toro Rosso rookies of Carlos Sainz Jr and Max Verstappen sandwiched the tenth-fastest Sauber of Felipe Nasr on the timesheets; the other Sauber of Marcus Ericsson was twelfth-fastest, despite a wild spin exiting the Turn 11/12 sweeps.
The Swede finished ahead of the two Force Indias of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, although the latter might be aggrieved to not be higher up the order after being baulked by Jenson Button at the penultimate corner.
While the McLarens were going to predictably languish at the bottom of the timesheets, the same expectation could not be said of Red Bull Racing, which had a shocking final practice sessions.
Local favourite Daniel Ricciardo will be nervous about his qualifying prospects, repeatedly complaining over the radio about poor driveability and then suffering the indignity of his RB11 grinding to a halt at pit exit. Teammate Daniil Kvyat had an equally rough time, managing only six laps before he parked in the garage with an apparent technical problem.
The software and assembly gremlins persisted in the Manor Marussia garages, as once again neither Will Stevens nor Roberto Merhi were able to get their cars fired up and onto the track. As a result of failing to drive in any of the sessions, the team will be unable to participate in qualifying and can start to pack up early for the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.
2015 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Results:
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team F1W06||1:27.867||11|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:28.563||+ 0.696||13|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team F1W06||1:28.821||+ 0.954||14|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:28.912||+ 1.045||14|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:28.988||+ 1.121||18|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:29.017||+ 1.150||13|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:29.481||+ 1.614||12|
|8.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:29.864||+ 1.997||15|
|9.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:29.869||+ 2.002||19|
|10.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:29.934||+ 2.067||24|
|11.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:29.952||+ 2.085||16|
|12.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:30.613||+ 2.746||21|
|13.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:30.741||+ 2.874||14|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:30.993||+ 3.126||17|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:31.185||+ 3.318||10|
|16.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:31.391||+ 3.524||14|
|17.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:31.666||+ 3.799||13|
|18.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:32.830||+ 4.963||6|
|19.||Will Stevens||Marussia Manor F1 Team Ferrari MR03||no time||0|
|20.||Roberto Merhi||Marussia Manor F1 Team Ferrari MR03||no time||0|
Image via XPB Images