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||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:34.599||13|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:34.668||+ 0.069||14|
|3.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||1:34.968||+ 0.369||16|
|4.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||1:35.131||+ 0.542||13|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:35.393||+ 0.794||18|
|6.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||1:35.471||+ 0.872||15|
|7.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:36.307||+ 1.708||14|
|8.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:36.335||+ 1.736||8|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:36.421||+ 1.822||13|
|10.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:36.429||+ 1.830||18|
|11.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:36.488||+ 1.889||14|
|12.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||1:36.548||+ 1.949||7|
|13.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||1:36.612||+ 2.013||17|
|14.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:36.684||+ 2.085||11|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08||1:36.727||+ 2.128||14|
|16.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||1:36.899||+ 2.300||11|
|17.||Carlos Sainz||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||1:36.979||+ 2.380||14|
|18.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||1:37.151||+ 2.552||17|
|18.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:39.745||+ 5.146||12|
|20.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:40.541||+ 5.942||14|
Image via XPB Images