Austrian GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report

Trouble ahead

Sebastian Vettel, Austrian GP 2017

Sebastian Vettel, Austrian GP 2017 

 © RV Press


By Dan Knutson in Spielberg

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel finished Free Practice 3 ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton who had an apparent brake problem on his Mercedes. There were more troubles for Hamilton as well: he will have to take a five-place grid penalty because his car needed a new gearbox.

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Hamilton was the fastest in FP2 with a time of 1:05.483 - a new unofficial lap record - on Pirelli's super soft tires.

"Pretty good day," he said Friday. "The track felt pretty good from the get go. The track was nice and clean, the grip was amazing already from the start so we had a good baseline to start with and we've just been chipping away at it.

"I am going to work hard tonight to try and find some more performance. I got the car to the limit. I need to now look at the weakness and try to improve. I definitely think we can improve, generally do from Friday to the Saturday."

The ambient temperature at the start of the 60-minute session was 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Centigrade).

The Haas drivers, both in the top 10 Friday, were the first out for FP3. Sainz headed out but didn't come back as his car came to a halt on the circuit. "Engine," he radioed.

His engineer gave him instructions how to restart the engine but to no avail, and the marshals pushed the car to a safe parking place.

Verstappen set the early marker with a 1:06.015 on the ultra soft tires, but the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers had yet to clock times 15 minutes into the session. When they did, Vettel ended up second and Bottas fourth. Hamilton said his tires had a vibration.

Verstappen finally lost the top spot 23 minutes into FP3 when Bottas turned a 1:05.726 and Hamilton a 1:05.929. Then Vettel beat them with a 1:05.384. They were all on the ultra soft tires rather than the super soft or soft Pirellis.

Halfway through the session the top ten were: Vettel, Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Palmer, Magnussen and Ocon.

It stayed that way for a while as the drivers concentrated on long runs.

When the did do fast runs, Bottas shaved some time of his time but remained second. Then Hamilton shaved 0.023 off of Vettel's time with a 1:05.361.

Vettel then started a lap going even faster until he encountered traffic. But on his next attempt he retook first place with a 1:05.092.

Ten minutes remained when Hamilton had an off at Turn 3. He limped the car back to the pits where the mechanics inspected the right front brake.

The Ferrari drivers headed out with three minutes to go. Hamilton was out of his car.

FP3 came to an end with the top 10 being: Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Grosjean, Kvyat and Sainz.

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