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FP3 - Hamilton fastest as Verstappen splits Mercedes

01 Oct 2016

Lewis Hamilton maintained his advantage in Saturday afternoon’s final practice session at Sepang, but unlike in FP2 it was Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who emerged as the world champion’s closest challenger and not Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.

PRACTICE THREE RESULTS

Pos. No. Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes 1:34.434 16
2 33 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing 1:34.879 +0.445s 14
3 6 Nico Rosberg ROS Mercedes 1:35.053 +0.619s 16
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen RAI Ferrari 1:35.150 +0.716s 15
5 5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari 1:35.170 +0.736s 14
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo RIC Red Bull Racing 1:35.461 +1.027s 22
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg HUL Force India 1:35.776 +1.342s 16
8 77 Valtteri Bottas BOT Williams 1:35.902 +1.468s 17
9 55 Carlos Sainz SAI Toro Rosso 1:36.222 +1.788s 18
10 19 Felipe Massa MAS Williams 1:36.227 +1.793s 20

On the soft tyres, Hamilton lapped a comfortable 0.445s quicker than Verstappen and 0.619s faster than Rosberg, with the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel seven tenths back in fourth and fifth.

The other Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo completed the top six, but was over a second back of Hamilton’s marker having gone for his quick time earlier than all of his rivals.

Kevin Magnussen had set the ball rolling with 1m 40.272s for Renault, before Ricciardo improved that to 1m 36.875s on the medium Pirellis. After the Australian had improved that further to 1m 36.483s, he was usurped by Sergio Perez’s Force India with 1m 36.435s.

15 minutes had passed before either Mercedes came out, with Rosberg seeming set to go fastest until he encountered yellow flags at Turn 15, where Esteban Gutierrez had spun his Haas. But next time round the German lapped in 1m 36.361s on mediums to move ahead.

Having posted 1m 36.474s Hamilton was on an all-purple lap when he aborted in the final sector, but subsequently he stamped in 1m 35.612s on mediums to go to the top of the timesheets.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls were on the prowl. Ricciardo went fastest on softs with 1m 35.461s, as Verstappen did 1m 36.109s for third place on mediums.

In the final part of the session Hamilton reclaimed the top spot with an emphatic 1m 34.434s after Rosberg’s run on similar rubber yielded only a weak 1m 35.293s. As he trimmed that to 1m 35.053s, Hamilton set the fastest first sector time, but failed to improve over the next two, the Briton not happy about his car’s performance in high-speed corners.

Verstappen eclipsed Rosberg with 1m 34.879s, as Raikkonen and Vettel brought the Ferraris into contention. The Finn managed 1m 35.150s, the German, who also had a spin at Turn 15, improved from 1m 35.293s to 1m 35.170s for fifth.

Behind the heavy hitters, Nico Hulkenberg took seventh on softs for Force India with 1m 35.776s, as Valtteri Bottas lapped his Williams in 1m 35.902s on similar rubber. After making a mistake earlier in the session, Carlos Sainz redeemed himself by putting his Toro Rosso into ninth with 1m 36.222s as Felipe Massa in the other Williams rounded out the top 10 with 1m 36.227s.

Elsewhere, there were some lurid moments for Romain Grosjean in the Haas; Jolyon Palmer had the hump with Renault but took 14th place behind Jenson Button and Gutierrez; and Fernando Alonso ran into trouble which left him down in 22nd place. The Spaniard had switched back to his older-spec ICE as planned, but earned a 15-place grid drop to add to the 30 he got by using the latest engine yesterday, when a new turbocharger and MGU-H were fitted.