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Mercedes continued to dominate in free practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the third session, with teammate Nico Rosberg in second place.
Elsewhere, Sebastian Vettel’s stint was cut short, as the four-time World Champion found one of the few gravel traps out on the circuit; he lost rear grip and spun off at turn two.
The teams seemed a little hesitant about exerting too many resources in the bright afternoon conditions. With qualifying set to take place later on in the evening local time, conditions will be much different, so all-in-all there was little to gain from the last of the three practice sessions for a lot of the teams.
The session began with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat setting the pace. The Russian clocked in at 1:38.666 with the Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso settling in behind in second and third respectively.
But once the two Mercedes drivers emerged, they raced straight to the top of the timing boards. First Hamilton, who clocked in 1.3 seconds quicker than Kvyat, and then Rosberg, who undercut his teammate by a tenth of a second. Both Hamilton and Rosberg set their times on the slower, medium compound tyres.
Elsewhere, Jenson Button looked to be finding some pace in the McClaren after struggling in the first two practice sessions in Bahrain. The 2009 world champion found himself a second off the pace in third.
Two thirds of the way through the session, Sebastian Vettel’s final practice was cut short after he lost grip through turn two; he spun off the track and into the gravel.
The premature end to the practice session meant the Red Bull man would be going into qualifying blind, with no qualifying simulation laps and unable to mirror his teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s car set-up, which is geared towards race-day. That of course, after the Australian was handed a ten place grid penalty for an unsafe pit release at the Malaysian Grand Prix per ABC Online.
With 15 minutes to go, the teams started their qualification practice. The Mercedes duo were out very quickly and Rosberg extended his lead at the top. But as he has done all weekend, Hamilton nudged his way in front with a time of 1:35.324.
Behind them was another four drivers powered by Mercedes engines. Force India's Sergio Perez was 0.544 seconds off Rosberg in third, with the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa fourth and fifth quickest respectively. Button ended the session in sixth.
Both Mercedes drivers look set to be on the front row of the grid by the time qualifying is complete. We should be in for an excellent scrap for pole position, whilst a little further back, the competition for the third podium slot looks exceptionally tight.
The top of the standings was a testament to the dominance of Mercedes at the moment, with eight of the top 11 drivers in FP3 being powered by their engines.
Here are the full standings from the third and final free practice session of the weekend per Formula1.com:
||Red Bull Racing-Renault
||Red Bull Racing-Renault