Ferrari asserted their early weekend dominance over Mercedes in the third and final Free Practice session at Sochi - with Friday afternoon's top four repeating itself, Sebastian Vettel getting the edge on Kimi Raikkonen once more.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas continued to struggle, three and five-tenths adrift of Vettel's time of a 1:34.001, as all the drivers bar Jolyon Palmer utilised the ultra-soft compound.
Palmer's session was a write-off due to chassis changes made last night, enforced by exhaust gases melting some parts of the safety cell. Only managing four laps hampered by an engine problem, he failed to set a time.
Contrary to yesterday afternoon, Vettel proved to be the pace-setter, his early time of a 1:34.933 four and six-tenths ahead of both Bottas and Raikkonen respectively, with Hamilton a further tenth adrift.
Ferrari flex their muscle
Although, Hamilton was not to be left behind, bettering Vettel's initial time by a tenth, showing good pace in the final sector - a pattern of his weekend thus far.
Further down the order, Romain Grosjean and Haas' problems intensified; the Frenchman complaining of a lack of grip in the final sector. And after a flawed day yesterday, the American constructor switched back to Brembo brake discs.
At the sharper end, times started to tumble in the last 20 minutes. Bottas was first to strike, a 1:34.681 enough to topple Hamilton, but not for long - as Raikkonen and then Vettel blew his time out the water. In the Mercedes garage, both Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff grimaced and winced.
The challenge to Vettel and co ended there, with Red Bull and Max Verstappen claiming the 'best of the rest' tag, nearly one-and-a-half seconds down on the German. Felipe Massa continued his stellar weekend in the Williams, finishing sixth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen, who rounded out the top 10.
Free Practice 3 classifcation
|5||Max VERSTAPPEN||Red Bull||1:35.452||+1.451||21|
|8||Daniel RICCIARDO||Red Bull||1:35.830||+1.829||24|
|9.||Carlos SAINZ||Toro Rosso||1:36.164||+2.163||20|
|12||Esteban OCON||Force India||1:36.676||+2.675||22|
|13||Daniil KVYAT||Toro Rosso||1:36.846||+2.845||18|
|15||Sergio PEREZ||Force India||1:36.962||+2.961||21|
|20||Jolyon PALMER||Renault||No Time||-||4|