Malaysian GP: Hamilton blitzes field in FP3

Hamilton fastest as Rosberg looks ragged in final practice from Sepang, Verstappen splits the Merc's as Ferrari do the same to the Red Bull's.

Malaysian GP: Hamilton blitzes field in FP3
Lewis Hamilton looked in supreme form, and was nearly 0.5 clear at the end of FP3. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

Heading into the Malaysian GP weekend, it appeared Lewis Hamilton was in danger of being outclassed once again by team-mate Nico Rosberg, the German topping FP1 on Friday morning, before the Brit hit back in the afternoon.

But in Third and final practice for the race, Hamilton showed that his Singapore blip, was just that, with a blistering time, 0.445 clear of what Max Verstappen could manage in his Red Bull.

Rosberg was third quickest, but a massive 0.6 down on what the sister car had managed to do, quite a gap to try and make up for qualifying. The Ferrari’s came home fourth and fifth, Kimi Raikkonen once again ahead of ​Sebastian Vettel on the timing screens.

​Daniel Ricciardo looked below par in sixth, but was still ahead of best-of-the-rest Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India. Valtteri Bottas had a strong morning for Williams, with him and team-mate Felipe Massa sandwiching the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr  in ninth.

Busy session

After an overnight shower at Sepang had washed most of the rubber laid down on Friday away, it was the Renault’s who were the initial pace-setters, although their moment of glory was quickly snatched by Ricciardo.

Perez then took P1, although this was only brief as Rosberg then came through to complete a lap that was good enough to replace the VJM09 with the W07 Hybrid.

As final race-pace runs were being completed throughout the field, Hamilton had to wait an extra lap to post a representative time, following Vettel’s spin. When he did so, a 1:35.612 was good enough for P1, until Ricciardo went 0.151 quicker, albeit on the Soft compound tyre, compared to Hamilton’s medium run.

A lack of grip, following the overnight rain contributed to Sebastian Vettel's harmless spin. (Image Credit F1.com)
A lack of grip, following the overnight rain contributed to Sebastian Vettel's harmless spin. (Image Credit F1.com)

Owing to his now 45 place grid penalty, Fernando Alonso ​spent the final hour of practice focussing on race-pace simulations, as there would be n point in him doing Qualifying work, as he is going to start last in any case. The McLaren ​had been comfortably inside the top 10 in both Friday sessions, thus the team are confident he and Jenson Button ​can score good points.

Qualifying simulations

Only at the end of FP3, when the tanks are drained and engine modes turned up, is the first real qualifying simulations completed. With around 20 minutes left on the clock, Rosberg was the first of the main contenders to do this, a 1:35.293 not the best lap he has ever driven.

Hamilton then responded with a blistering 1:34.434, nearly 1s clear of the sister car, although there were still some handling problems for the Brit to contend with.

Try as they all might, no-one could get within 0.5s of Hamilton, including Rosberg, until right at the end, Verstappen pumped in a 1:34.879 to be the best of the rest.

Malaysian Grand Prix - Third Practice times
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1.

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes 1:34.434
2. Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.445
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.619
4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.716
5. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.736
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +1.027
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1.342
8. Valtteri Bottas Williams +1.468
9. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +1.788
10. Felipe Massa Williams +1.793
11. Sergio Perez Force India +1.825
12. Jenson Button McLaren +1.929
13. Esteban Gutierrez Haas +2.119
14. Jolyon Palmer Renault +2.170
15. Romain Grosjean Haas +2.253
16. Kevin Magnussen Renault +2.307
17. Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.318
18. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2.331
19. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.672
20. Esteban Ocon Manor +3.527
21. Pascal Wehrlein Manor +3.655
22. Fernando Alonso

McLaren

+6.765