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Australian GP 2016

MARCH 19, 2016

Practice 3 Report - True Comparisons

Lewis Hamilton, Australian GP 2016
© Active Pictures

Saturday's Free Practice 3 provided the first true comparisons of the relative speeds of the cars because it was the first time, including preseason testing, that all the cars had been driven on the softest tires available and with low fuel loads.

The results are that Mercedes is about two-tenths of a second quicker than Ferrari. And the Toro Rossos look quick.

After the rains on Friday, this was also the first time that the drivers had a chance to go out on a properly dry track.

"The weather conditions made it very tricky for everybody and unfortunately we couldn't do many laps," Kimi Raikkonen said at the end of Friday's wet sessions. "It was a pity not to have been able to run in proper conditions, for all the spectators and for all of us, but we cannot change the weather. The car is the same we had in testing, but it was the first time with wet tires and it seems to be okay."

The line-up for FP3 was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto and Roberto Merhi. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 60-minute session was 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Centigrade.)

Vettel and Raikkonen were the first out.

Then embarrassment as new driver Haryanto drove out of the pit garage and straight into new-team driver Grosjean who was going down pit lane. The cars barely touched, but the mechanics had to untangle them and push them back into the garages.

Just about everybody else got out quickly as they were anxious to make the most of the one hour of dry running before qualifying. Some were on the Pirelli soft tires and some on the super soft compound.

Ten minutes into the session: every driver except Grosjean (whose car was being repaired) had set a lap time, and Kvyat and Ricciardo were at the top of the list having used the super softs slicks. Then Ricciardo went into first with a time of 1:27.733.

With just one hour of dry running, some of the teams were not doing the usual FP3 strategy of using the harder tires first and then the softer tires later.

Rosberg, meanwhile, had to go off on the escape road at Turn 13 to avoid Magnussen who also took the escape road.

Raikkonen posted a 1:27.560 with 35 minutes remaining in the session to take over the top spot.

There was a bit of a lull just before the halfway mark, and the top 10 at that time were: Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Rosberg, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Perez, Wehrlein and Sainz. But then Ricciardo bounced back into the lead with a 1:26.768. And Grosjean finally made it out onto the track.

Rosberg's time of 1:26.149, on the soft compound, put him on top with 24 minutes to go. Four minutes later Hamilton slotted into second with a 1:26.477 on the softs.

Now the order was: Rosberg, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vettel, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Massa, Bottas, Alonso and Button.

With 15 minutes to go, Vettel used the super softs to clock a 1:25.852.

Then, with less than 10 minutes remaining, the Mercedes drivers tried the super soft tires for the first time. Hamilton did a 1:25.624 and Rosberg a 1:25.800. Compared to Vettel's 1:25.852, the Mercedes was 0.176 of a second quicker than the Ferrari.

The top 10 at the end of FP3 were: Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel, Sainz, Raikkonen, Verstappen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Massa and Perez.