Lap times tumbled in a red-flagged final practice for the Australian GP as Sebastian Vettel posted a new fastest ever lap time around the Albert Park circuit on his way to P1.
With Formula 1 promising faster cars through this year’s new aerodynamic regulations there were predictions that lap times would tumble and that came true in Melbourne on Saturday.
Ferrari set the early running in final practice as Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen lapped on the ultrasoft tyres.
Attempting to retake P1 off his team-mate, Vettel clocked a 1:23.3801, beating the fastest ever lap time set at the Melbourne circuit – his own 2011 pole position time.
Mercedes were unable to match Ferrari’s pace with Valtteri Bottas second fastest, 0.479s off the pace, while Lewis Hamilton was a further 0.011s down.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest ahead of Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg. The German, though, was a full second behind the Ferrari.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner predicted that Ferrari are running lighter fuel loads than Mercedes – “and if they are not, they are ballistically quick.”
As for Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo was the fastest of the team-mates in sixth place with Max Verstappen P12. The Dutchman did not put in an ultrasoft run.
Romain Grosjean, running a reinforced T-wing on his Haas, was seventh ahead of Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Kevin Magnussen.
Practice was disrupted by a late crash from Lance Stroll.
The Williams rookie got it wrong through Turn 10 and hit the wall with the right side of his car before sliding to a halt, bringing out the red flags. The session was not restarted.
He was P17.
The big news prior to the start of FP3 was the withdrawal of Pascal Wehrlein, who explained that he was unfit following his back injury and could not complete a full race distance.
The Sauber driver was replaced by Ferrari third driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who, while was last of the 20 runners, was 1.2 seconds slower than regular driver Marcus Ericsson.
1. Sebastian Vettel 1:23:380 12 laps
2. Valtteri Bottas 1:23:859 12 laps
3. Lewis Hamilton 1:23:870 12 laps
4. Kimi. Raikkonen 1:23:988 10 laps
5. Nico Hulkenberg 1:25:063 10 laps
6. Daniel Ricciardo 1:25:092 15 laps
7. Romain Grosjean 1:25:581 11 laps
8. Carlos Sainz Jr 1:26:034 11 laps
9. Daniil Kvyat 1:26:049 11 laps
10. Kevin Magnussen 1:26:138 11 laps
11. Felipe Massa 1:26:237 15 laps
12. Max Verstappen 1:26:269 7 laps
13. Sergio Perez 1:26:457 12 laps
14. Fernando Alonso 1:26:556 7 laps
15. Stoffel Vandoorne 1:27:037 9 laps
16. Esteban Ocon 1:27:103 16 laps
17. Lance Stroll 1:27:327 12 laps
18. Marcus Ericsson 1:27:402 10 laps
19. Jolyon Palmer 1:28:320 12 laps
20. Antonio Giovinazzi 1:28:583 18 laps