Melbourne (AFP) – Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton warmed up ahead of qualifying on Saturday with the fastest time in practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The Mercedes driver clocked one minute 27.867 seconds in the third free practice to hold an 0.696sec break over Ferrari s Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes teammate and last year s race winner Nico Rosberg, who was fastest in both the previous two practice sessions, was third quickest with a 1:28.821 best lap.
Finn Valtteri Bottas in a Williams was fourth with teammate Felipe Massa fifth.
Australian hopeful Daniel Ricciardo encountered further mechanical problems with his Red Bull stopping at the exit to pit lane.
Ricciardo had problems with his power unit in Friday s first practice and was unable to participate in the second session after changing engines.
The stoppage may have implications for Red Bull dealing with F1 s latest engine rule change, where the number of power units allowed have been reduced from five to four this year.
Ricciardo could only post the 15th best lap time of 1:31.185.
Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson returned to the track after the legal saga between Giedo van der Garde and Sauber over the team s driving line-up had a resolution Saturday.
Ericsson lost the rear of his car at the exit of Turn 12 but continued on in the session to post the 12th best time, while Nasr had the 10th quickest.
The McLaren Honda duo of three-time race winner Jenson Button and Dane Kevin Magnussen again struggled with reliability and were well down the time charts.
The new Manor team s chances of taking part in the season-opening race appear slim after their two drivers, Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, again failed to make it on to the track for third free practice ahead of qualifying later Saturday.
Manor, born from the ashes of Marussia after it went into administration, have to work through the electrical software and computing issues that confined its cars to the garage as the team struggles to catch up after being unable to test their cars in the off-season.