With both Mercedes drivers unhappy with the car setup, the Ferrari of Vettel tops the table in the final practice session of the year.
The session started with Grosjean, Vettel and Kvyat all taking to the track quickly after suffering problems during Free Practice 2 yesterday to get some valuable setup time.
Kvyat seemed to come out quite tentatively, completing very few flying laps throughout the session. After each lap, the team were bringing both cars back to the pits to check for any sign of damage that might have led to the punctures on Kvyat’s car the day before. No punctures in the sessions ensured that both cars would be able to run in qualifying. If a puncture had occurred, they would be under extreme scrutiny by the FIA for the repeat failure and may have not been able to run due to safety concerns. Hopefully, the mechanics have resolved the issue and it won’t jeopardise the rest of the team’s race weekend. Both Kvyat and Sainz improved their times to finish 18th and 21st on the timesheets.
Vettel had a much better session, topping the timesheets early on with the ultrasoft tyres, 0.086 ahead of Hamilton, although Hamilton was on a set of slower compound tyres. He continued to run on the ultrasoft tyres and delivered another flying lap which improved his time again to 1.41.957.
This was quickly knocked of the top spot by fellow Ferrari driver Raikkonen who delivered a flying lap time on 1.41.400 with the Red Bull of Ricciardo tucked up behind him with a lap of 1.41.831. The other Red Bull was running a different strategy through the session but when Max strapped on a pair of the purple ultrasoft boots, he jumped up the timesheets to split the Ferrari drivers. Both Ferraris and the Red Bull of Verstappen topped the timing screens at the end of the session with both Mercedes drivers coming in 4th and 5th with Ricciardo in 6th.
Throughout the session both Mercedes drivers complained about the cars under braking and made quite a lot trips back to pits to make setup adjustments to the cars. Finishing in 4th and 5th, the Mercedes drivers were delivering good enough times to show their pace, but are they trying to save tyres and protect the cars from too much running to avoid any mechanical failures during qualifying and the race tomorrow.
The battle continues between the Force India and Williams teams. Both Williams drivers set good laps times despite Massa taking a trip off track in the 2nd sector. The Force India of Hulkenberg didn’t make an appearance until 30 minutes into the session as his mechanics were at work fixing a problem with the fuel system that was discovered when they fired up the car. When the Force Indias made an appearance they quickly pushed the Williams cars down the timing screens as did team mate Perez. The Williams drivers ended the session in 9th and 14th with the Force
Indias in 7th and 8th. Will the Williams drivers get the car hooked up throughout qualifying and challenge them during the race? Only time will tell.
Both Haas drivers seemed to have a better day, although Grosjean complained about braking issues. They finished the session in 10th and 15th but will the car have more braking problems in the cooler temperatures of qualifying?
Tune in for the final qualifying session of the season at 1:30pm to see if the Red Bull and Ferrari cars can mix up the top 6 to ensure tomorrow’s championship battle is one not to be missed.
Abu Dhabi GP Free Practice Three Results
- Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:40:775
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull, +0.137
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, +0.224
- Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +0.290
- Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, +0.393
- Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, +1.056
- Sergio Perez, Force India, +1.110
- Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, +1.292
- Valtteri Bottas, Williams, +1.301
- Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, +1.579
- Fernando Alonso, Mclaren, +1.180
- Jolyon Palmer, Renault, +1.841
- Jenson Button, Mclaren, +1.889
- Felipe Massa, Williams, +1.908
- Romain Grosjean, Haas, +2.030
- Kevin Magnussen, Renault, +2.282
- Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, +2.370
- Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, +2.526
- Felipe Nasr, Sauber, +2.642
- Esteban Ocon, Manor, +2.958
- Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, +3.330
- Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, +3.463
Feature Image Credit: Scudaria Ferrari Press Release