Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg almost a second slower in last running before qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.
Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton set a scorching pace in the final free practice session on Saturday morning ahead of Australian Grand Prix qualifying in Melbourne.
Hamilton set the pace on 1:27.867 around Albert Park, seven tenths of a second faster than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Rosberg was only third quickest on 1:28.821.
Rosberg had set the early pace on the medium tyre running, with a 1:29.364, but Hamilton toppled him with a 1:29.128 – despite a couple of grassy excursions at Turn 9.
Rosberg was the first of the frontrunners to try the soft tyres this weekend, setting 1:28.939 at first, later improving to 28.821.
Then Hamilton pinged in his 1:27.867 best with five minutes to go, with Vettel posting 1:28.563 soon after to go second fastest, pushing Rosberg back to third.
Hamilton’s second lap was faster in the first two sectors, but he aborted that lap – so he could go even quicker this afternoon.
Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were fourth and fifth, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Lotus twins Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado were next up, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr (Toro Rosso), Felipe Nasr (Sauber) and Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso).
Red Bull in the wars
It was a disastrous session for Red Bull. First, newboy Daniil Kvyat locked up and went straight on at Turn 15 early on due to an engine software issue that accelerated the car under braking. “The Renault guys are looking at that one,” sighed team principal Christian Horner from the pitwall.
Kvyat ended the session 18th on 1:32.830 and his session was curtailed 10 minutes early due to an engine fire.
Things were little better with local hero Daniel Ricciardo, 15th on 1:31.185, who complained: “Really bad driveability” from his engine in his early laps. He was forced to stop after 28 minutes of the session, being fortunate to get pushed back by marshals from where he'd ground to a halt at the end of the pitlane.
Ricciardo rejoined 10 minutes later, but required his brakes bleeding which forced him to also end his session prematurely.
Others hit some trouble too
Elsewhere, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson spun exiting Turn 12 and did a good job to keep it out of the wall.
McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen (16th) and Force India’s Sergio Perez (14th) had near miss at final corner, which angered the Mexican, while Sainz ran through gravel.
The Manor machines again didn’t venture from the pit garage and look unlikely to run at any point this weekend.
|9||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:29.869||2.002||19|
|11||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso-Renault||1:29.952||2.085||16|
|13||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:30.741||2.874||14|
|14||Sergio Perez||Force India-Mercedes||1:30.993||3.126||17|
|15||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull-Renault||1:31.185||3.318||10|
|18||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull-Renault||1:32.830||4.463||6|