Australian GP: Hamilton fastest in FP3 but Ferrari closes the gap

Lewis Hamilton topped the times in final free practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, but Ferrari demonstrated it has closed the gap to Mercedes.

Although it was another Mercedes 1-2, with Hamilton lapping 0.176s faster than teammate Nico Rosberg, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was 0.228s behind – all using the supersoft tyre.

With very little dry running in Friday’s rain interrupted sessions, teams were keen to get some decent mileage ahead of qualifying and the race.

Carlos Sainz proved Toro Rosso’s potential with the fifth-fastest time, as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was 0.8s off the pace and slipped to fifth in the closing minutes.

Max Verstappen was sixth quickest in the second Toro Rosso, ahead of Williams’s Valtteri Bottas and the quickest Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

Story of the session

Under cloudy skies, but with a fully dry track surface, Vettel was the first car on track ahead of Ferrari teammate Raikkonen.

Almost immediately, Manor’s Rio Haryanto collided with the Haas Romain Grosjean in the pitlane – damaging Grosjean’s car more severely than Haryanto’s.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer set the first laptime, a 1m35.894s, quickly topped by teammate Kevin Magnussen, and then the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.

Hulkenberg leapt to the top on soft tyres on 1m31.196s, with Verstappen slotting into P2 before Perez briefly made it a Force India 1-2.

Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat grabbed P1 with 1m28.510s as Mercedes got into its swing, with Rosberg taking P2 on 1m30.897s, with Hamilton third on 1m30.902s.

Ricciardo snatched the top spot on 1m28.242s, as Kvyat lowered his best time to 1m28.231s to beat him by 0.011s. Vettel went third fastest on 1m30.450s.

Star performer early on was Manor’s rookie Pascal Wehrlein, who ran as high as eighth.

Serious supersoft running

After a quick pitstop, Ricciardo retook first position on 1m27.733s on the supersoft tyre, as rain briefly threatened – but never materialised.

This meant the Mercedes duo were an unaccustomed 3s off the leading pace after 20 minutes. Hamilton suffered a big lockup at Turn 14 on his outlap on the supersofts, and aborted his first run on them.

Then Rosberg had a huge moment, locking up and almost ploughing into the back of the Renault of Kevin Magnussen under braking for Turn 13, both taking to the escape road.

Raikkonen set the fastest time on 1m27.560s just before the half-hour mark, with Vettel taking third on 1m27.767s – making it Ferrari-Red Bull-Ferrari-Red Bull.

Vettel took P1, also on the soft tyre, on 1m26.911s before Ricciardo retook it on 1m26.768s.

Ferrari challenges Mercedes

Rosberg had slipped to 10th before he leapt to the top of the times with a lap of 1m26.149s on the soft tyre, an advantage of 0.619s. Hamilton had likewise tumbled to 19th before leaping up to second on 1m26.477s on fresh softs, 0.328s down on Rosberg.

With 15 minutes to go, Raikkonen went P2 on supersofts on 1m26.435s. Vettel went top on 1m25.852s – also on supersofts, despite a huge lockup at the penultimate corner.

That gave Vettel a 0.297s advantage on the supersoft over the Mercedes’s best soft-tyred time.

Mercedes then went for supersoft runs at the end, with Hamilton going P1 on 1m25.624s, and Rosberg second on 1m25.800s. That gave Lewis an advantage of 0.176s over Rosberg, and 0.228s over Vettel.

Sainz and Verstappen were late improvers, sandwiching Raikkonen. 

Incidents and accidents

Apart from the pitlane collision that stranded Grosjean in the garage for the first half the session, Nasr had a wild off over the kerbs at Turn 4 early on.

Fernando Alonso had a huge 360-degree spin at the penultimate corner after a lockup.

Sergio Perez spun, also at Turn 14, after dropping his right-side tyres on to the grass on entry.

Ericsson struggled with a lack of DRS, while Nasr took another adventure across the grass on the exit of Turn 1.

Jolyon Palmer had a late off at Turn 6, running through the gravel.

Results: Formula 1 2016 Australian GP FP3

United KingdomLewis Hamilton  Mercedes F1 W07  1:25.624   
GermanyNico Rosberg  Mercedes F1 W07  1:25.800  +0.176 
GermanySebastian Vettel  Ferrari SF16-H  1:25.852  +0.228 
SpainCarlos Sainz Jr.  Toro Rosso STR11  1:26.257  +0.633 
FinlandKimi Raikkonen  Ferrari SF16-H  1:26.435  +0.811 
NetherlandsMax Verstappen  Toro Rosso STR11  1:26.701  +1.077 
FinlandValtteri Bottas  Williams FW38  1:26.730  +1.106 
AustraliaDaniel Ricciardo  Red Bull RB12  1:26.768  +1.144 
BrazilFelipe Massa  Williams FW38  1:27.151  +1.527 
10  MexicoSergio Perez  Force India VJM09  1:27.242  +1.618 
11  SpainFernando Alonso  McLaren MP4-31  1:27.263  +1.639 
12  United KingdomJenson Button  McLaren MP4-31  1:27.341  +1.717 
13  RussiaDaniil Kvyat  Red Bull RB12  1:27.430  +1.806 
14  SwedenMarcus Ericsson  Sauber C35  1:27.659  +2.035 
15  DenmarkKevin Magnussen  Renault R.S.16  1:27.871  +2.247 
16  GermanyNico Hulkenberg  Force India VJM09  1:27.988  +2.364 
17  United KingdomJolyon Palmer  Renault R.S.16  1:28.117  +2.493 
18  MexicoEsteban Gutierrez  Haas VF-16  1:28.284  +2.660 
19  FranceRomain Grosjean  Haas VF-16  1:28.292  +2.668 
20  BrazilFelipe Nasr  Sauber C35  1:28.293  +2.669 
21  GermanyPascal Wehrlein  Manor MRT05  1:29.046  +3.422 
22  IndonesiaRio Haryanto  Manor MRT05  1:29.272  +3.648 

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Australian GP
Track Albert Park Circuit
Drivers Lewis Hamilton , Nico Rosberg
Teams Mercedes , Ferrari , Red Bull Racing , Toro Rosso
Article type Practice report