FP3: Ferrari One-Two as Ricciardo Hits Trouble
Flames, failures and fast Ferraris – FP3 in China was all action. Mercedes appeared to have no answer to the pace of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, as the red cars dominated the final hour of practice around the Shanghai International Circuit.
For the Silver Arrows, Valtteri Bottas was third, seven-tenths off Vettel’s pace, with an uncomfortable looking Lewis Hamilton a further quarter of a second back in fifth. The world champion had more than one off-track moment and spun in dramatic fashion after getting too wide on wet artificial grass at Turn 10.
Max Verstappen split the Mercedes for Red Bull, but there was serious disappointment for team mate Daniel Ricciardo. His session started late because of a gearbox issue then ended with the Australian pulling over after just four laps with a suspected turbo failure.
The only other driver with a single-figure lap count was Romain Grosjean, who finished last in the times having been forced to retire after pitting with the rear brakes on his Haas on fire. The Frenchman had previously spun at Turn 10.
There was consolation for Haas in Kevin Magnussen’s sixth place, ahead of the seemingly much-improved Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. Carlos Sainz took ninth for Renault, with Sergey Sirotkin an encouraging tenth for Williams.
Not unlike Friday’s sessions, conditions were dry, gusty, cool and overcast. But again grip was at a premium, particularly for those – like Hamilton – who put a wheel wide at Turn 10, where the artificial grass was still holding lots of water from overnight rain.
With just two hours before qualifying, Red Bull will be in a race against time to get Ricciardo’s car ready – and Mercedes will be looking for ways to find half a second on Ferrari ahead of the crucial fight for pole…