Abu Dhabi GP 2016: Vettel fastest in FP3

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was quickest in the final Free Practice session of 2016, with championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in fourth and fifth.

Abu Dhabi GP 2016: Vettel fastest in FP3
Sebastian Vettel set the pace. | Photo: Getty Images/Clive Mason

In the year's final Free Practice session at the stunning Yas Marina circuit in Abu DhabiSebastian Vettel set the pace ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and his Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen. The two Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were fourth and fifth respectively, and struggled with varying brake issues through the afternoon.

Vettel's time of 1:40.775, set towards the latter part of the session, on a new set of ultra-soft tyres, confirmed that Ferrari are in the mix for this weekend. With both the Red Bulls in close company, today's Qualifying session looks to be a mouthwatering prospect.

Mercedes find flaws

Both title contenders Hamilton and Rosberg suffered in a trying session, Rosberg noting that his car was pulling one side under braking, whilst Hamilton reported a lack of braking efficiency with his right front, and suffered a scare when his engine lost full power down the long straight between Turns 7 and 8. His engineer Pete Bonnington assuring him that it was an unexpected derate, as the engine went into harvesting mode; but no harm done.

Verstappen was the first of the front-runners to trouble the top of the timing sheet, with a 1:42.461 on a set of super-soft tyres, bettering previous leader Sergio Perez by a margin of 1.5 seconds. But, that wasn't to last for long, Hamilton and Rosberg making their first appearances of the day on the red walled super-softs. Hamilton set the pace with a time three tenths quicker than the young Dutchman, with Rosberg lagging in fourth, behind Verstappen and Red Bull colleague, Daniel Ricciardo.

Hamilton showed good pace, but struggled with brakes. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Hamilton showed good pace, but struggled with brakes. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Sainz in a spin

After his troubled weekend thus far, Carlos Sainz' afternoon got no easier, spinning at Turn 18 under the hotel walkway. The Spaniard failed to set a representative lap time throughout the session, Toro Rosso keen to avoid a repeat of yesterday's rear wheel hub problems.

Just under the halfway mark, Vettel lowered the pace into the '41's', two tenths faster than Hamilton. The Ferrari looked promising in the speed trap, Vettel reaching a peak of 208 mph. Whether that pace is cut and dried in comparison to the rest of the field is a different matter.

Six minutes later, Vettel's sister Ferrari, piloted by Raikkonen trumped the German on a set of used ultra-softs. The Finn's hour was marred by a lack of braking power and front-end bite, which Raikkonen made clear note of over the radio.

Carlos Sainz may be in for a difficult end to his weekend. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron
Carlos Sainz may be in for a difficult end to his weekend. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron

Vettel tops even session

That was how the order stayed until the two Silver Arrow cars started their Qualifying runs on fresh ultra-softs. Rosberg briefly held top spot, until Hamilton bettered his time by a tenth. That looked to be how the session would end, but Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen all ventured into the 1:40 bracket in the last 10 minutes.

With the Mercedes duo lagging behind in fourth and fifth, and suffering with various niggles; it's up for grabs in Qualifying and indeed, the race - with Vettel stretching a set of ultra-soft tyres out for an 11 lap stint, and showing promising pace and consistency.

THIRD PRACTICE CLASSIFICATION
Position Name Team Time Gap Laps
1 Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari 1:40.775 - 16
2 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:40.912 +0.137 21
3 Kimi RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1:40.999 +0.224 14
4 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes 1:41.065 +0.290 14
5 Nico ROSBERG Mercedes 1:41.168 +0.393 18
6 Daniel RICCIARDO Red Bull 1:41.831 +1.056 20
7 Sergio PEREZ Force India 1:41.885 +1.110 18
8 Nico HULKENBERG Force India 1:42.067 +1.292 13
9 Valtteri BOTTAS Williams 1:42.076 +1.301 19
10 Esteban GUTIERREZ Haas 1:42.354 +1.579 15
11 Fernando ALONSO McLaren 1:42.585 +1.810 13
12 Jolyon PALMER Renault 1:42.616 +1.841 17
13 Jenson BUTTON McLaren 1:42.664 +1.889 14
14 Felipe MASSA Williams 1:42.683 +1.908 19
15 Romain GROSJEAN Haas 1:42.805 +2.030 17
16 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Renault 1:43.057 +2.282 17
17 Pascal WEHRLEIN MRT 1:43.145 +2.370 16
18 Carlos SAINZ Toro Rosso 1:43.301 +2.526 10
19 Felipe NASR Sauber 1:43.417 +2.642 21
20 Esteban OCON MRT 1:43.733 +2.958 14
21 Daniil KVYAT Toro Rosso 1:44.105 +3.330 12
22 Marcus ERICSSON Sauber 1:44.238 +3.463 20