SPIELBERG – Sebastian Vettel bounced back to top the times for Ferrari ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in Saturday’s third and final free practice for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The four-time champion, who had been outpaced in both sessions on Friday and throughout last weekend’s French Grand Prix, set a fastest lap in one minute and 4.070 seconds.
This was just enough for him to wind up ahead of the championship leading Briton by 0.029 seconds with their team-mates Finns Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen taking third and fourth places.
All four leading drivers were separated by only 0.400 seconds. It was the first session since qualifying at the Canadian Grand Prix in which Vettel had out-performed fellow four-time champion Hamilton in their yo-yo scrap this year. Hamilton had topped both sessions on Friday and both he and Bottas posted fastest laps in Saturday’s practice before Vettel hit back to take the initiative.
Behind them, Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who will be 29 on Sunday, were fifth and sixth, the Dutchman stopping on track in the final minutes after a loss of power.
Romain Grosjean was seventh ahead of his Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen, an indicator that their Ferrari-powered cars have the performance needed to shine on the short, but picturesque and power-hungry Red Bull Ring circuit in the Styrian Alps.
Carlos Sainz was ninth for Renault ahead of Monegasque Charles Leclerc, who delivered another impressive run for Sauber before he, too, was hampered by a power failure on his final out lap.
The session saw a series of minor incidents, mostly as drivers ran across the ‘sausage’ kerbs on the final corners and damaged their front wings, the Toro Rosso team losing several pieces of bodywork there.
Stoffel Vandoorne, struggling with his McLaren, also ran off at the final corner before winding up 18th, four places behind his team-mate, two-time champion Fernando Alonso.