New Delhi, Mar 24: Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel grabbed the fastest time in the final seconds of the third practice session ahead of qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Melbourne on Friday.
Vettel, bidding for his fifth world title this year, capitalised on racing on slicks in drying track conditions after morning rain.
The German trumped teammate Kimi Raikkonen by a whopping 2.432 seconds as varying track conditions made for differing tyre choices.
Vettel clocked the fastest lap of one minute 26.067 seconds to leapfrog Red Bull’s Max Verstappen after the Renault of Carlos Sainz had hit the front on slicks.
Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who was slapped with a three-place grid penalty for a red flag infringement in Friday’s second practice, was sixth ahead of the Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and world champion Lewis Hamilton.
At one stage during the slippery track conditions, Hamilton was heard over the team radio to exclaim: “Something wrong” to which the Mercedes crew replied “Stop, stop, stop.”
It was later revealed that Hamilton needed to change a steering wheel, which forced him to miss half the practice session.
Verstappen adapted quickly to the wet track and was the first driver into the 1:37s to take an early lead for Red Bull.
Qualifying takes place later Saturday ahead of Sunday’s season-opening Grand Prix at Albert Park. (With PTI inputs)