This evening’s qualifying session for the Bahrain Grand Prix could well be the closest of the season so far, if Saturday’s final practice session was any indication. Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton edged out Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to the tune of just 0.069 seconds, hotly pursued by their respective teammates Nico Rosberg and Kimi Räikkönen.

With the hotter track and ambient conditions not going to be reflective of this evening’s night-time qualifying session, the lap times improved little when compared against Friday’s second practice session, in which Nico Rosberg was fastest.

Despite complaints of a hot seat – an issue he has suffered on a number of occasions already this year – Hamilton posted a 1:34.599 to narrowly beat Vettel to the top spot on the timesheets. Rosberg was a further three-tenths of a second adrift in the second Mercedes.

Räikkönen rounded out the top four in his Ferrari SF15-T, a further two-tenths back, losing much of that time with a slow first sector on his fastest lap.

The Williams pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa rounded out the top-six positions. The pair was split by less than eight-hundredths of a second, but were almost a second than seventh-fastest Pastor Maldonado.

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg, and Sauber rookie Felipe Nasr rounded out the top ten.

Jenson Button managed his first trouble-free session of the weekend and, despite complaints about the ever-inconsistent handling of his McLaren MP4-30, managed to lap inside the top ten before slipping to eleventh as others made late improvements. The 2009 champion finished four-tenths of a second and five places ahead of his teammate Fernando Alonso – giving confidence that at least one of the Honda-powered cars could escape the first dropout phase of qualifying for the first time this season.

Daniil Kvyat finished twelfth-fastest; the Russian rather embarrassingly spun his Red Bull Racing into one of the circuit’s few gravel traps when he looped his RB11 at Turn 4.

Marcus Ericsson was 13th-fastest in the second Sauber; the Swede finished ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen – whose struggles with balance issued continued – and the Force India of Sergio Pérez. The second Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr was a lowly 16th ahead of Alonso and the seocnd Lotus of Romain Grosjean.

The two Manor Marussias lapped well off the pace as usual, with Will Stevens again outpacing teammate Roberto Merhi – both drivers lapped within 107% of the session’s fastest time.

Saturday’s final practice session at Sakhir begins at 15:00 local time (GMT +3).

2015 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Results
Pos Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:34.599 13
2. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:34.668 + 0.069 14
3. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid 1:34.968 + 0.369 16
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T 1:35.131 + 0.542 13
5. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:35.393 + 0.794 18
6. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37 1:35.471 + 0.872 15
7. Pastor Maldonado ve Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:36.307 + 1.708 14
8. Daniel Ricciardo au Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:36.335 + 1.736 8
9. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:36.421 + 1.822 13
10. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:36.429 + 1.830 18
11. Jenson Button uk McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:36.488 + 1.889 14
12. Daniil Kvyat ru Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11 1:36.548 + 1.949 7
13. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34 1:36.612 + 2.013 17
14. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:36.684 + 2.085 11
15. Sergio Pérez mx Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08 1:36.727 + 2.128 14
16. Fernando Alonso es McLaren Honda MP4-30 1:36.899 + 2.300 11
17. Carlos Sainz es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10 1:36.979 + 2.380 14
18. Romain Grosjean fr Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid 1:37.151 + 2.552 17
18. Will Stevens uk Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:39.745 + 5.146 12
20. Roberto Merhi es Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:40.541 + 5.942 14

Image via XPB Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.