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Hamilton quickest in FP3 but Vettel is close

NEWS STORY
18/04/2015

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 29 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 42 degrees. As you might expect, this being the desert, it is sunny, but it is also very windy. Very, very windy... which is sure to cause problems.

With yesterday's opening session - in which Kimi Raikkonen was quickest - pretty much meaningless, as it took place far earlier than any other session, we have to rely on FP2 for guidance.

As ever, Mercedes led the way, but this time around it was Nico Rosberg who did the business. Teammate Lewis Hamilton was right up there but it was the Ferrari trhat looked that little bit stronger, particularly on the longer runs.

Valtteri Bottas was up there - rare to see a Williams posting serious times on a Friday - whilst the Red Bulls, Saubers and Lotus look strong.

Whilst there were offs and lock-ups aplenty yesterday, it wasn't until the final moments of FP2 that we actually got an incident, Sebastian Vettel hitting the rear of Sergio Perez' Force India after Ferrari (allegedly) failed to fit his right-front wheel correctly. Shortly after, a touch of overenthusiasm in the pitlane resulted in Raikkonen receiving a reprimand but Hamilton escaping sanction for doing the same thing - overtaking Nasr.

As Eric Boullier said, it was a game of two halves for McLaren; Fernando Alonso at one stage topping the timesheets and finishing twelfth overall, whilst Jenson Button spent most of the day as a spectator.

It was a difficult day for Toro Rosso and force India also, but the Italian team should bounce back over the next 24 hours.

Tyre options this weekend are medium and soft. There are two DRS zones, the first on the back straight, between Turns 10 and 11, and the second on the pit straight.

The lights go green and the Manor of Will Stevens leads the way followed by Grosjean, Vettel and Raikkonen.

Soon after, Merhi and Maldonado head out but the bulk of the drivers appear happy to wait a bit longer.

Button is the first driver top post a time, the McLaren driver crossing the line at 1:39.127. Moments later Nasr posts 38.095.

"No rear grip at all," complains Capt. No Grip. "Very poor everywhere. Braking and traction also very poor. We never heard a dicky bird from him yesterday!

As Hulkenberg goes third (39.441), ahead of Perez and Ericsson, Nasr runs wide in T11 - a corner which witnessed many such incidents yesterday - throwing up a great cloud of dust/sand.

As Ericsson struggles in a number of corners, the Swede patiently listing them, he is advised that this could be due to crosswinds. The Sauber driver remains unconvinced and pits.

A 37.962 sees Maldonado go quickest but Verstappen is on a hot lap, the youngster finally crossing the line at 39.771 to take second.

Rosberg looks set to be the first of the big guns to post a time, the German going quickest in the final sectors and crossing the line at 37.599. "Too much understeer at the moment," he tells his crew.

Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonen are now on track, the Briton running wide in T1 after locking up. Elsewhere, the 'monkey seat' falls from Maldonado's car coming out of T3.

A poor S2 means Raikkonen only manages 46.525 whilst teammate Vettel goes quickest in S1, finally crossing the line at 37.290 to go top.

Rosberg improves with a 37.378 but remains second, only to be demoted when Raikkonen bangs in a 36.973.

Hamilton posts 38.078 to go sixth, the world champion having a (deliberately?) low key session thus far. Moments later Bottas goes third, 0.383s off his countryman's pace.

Guess what? Hamilton's seat is warming up again. His rears are overheating also, he warns, without a hint of irony.

Masa goes fifth with a 37.688 as Kvyat's session appears to come to an end, the Russian stranded in the gravel at T4. Replay appears to show him merely allowing the rear end to step out, though he could have done a better job of keeping out of the gravel.

A couple of minutes later the session is red flagged so that the car can be removed.

At this point, with 27:00 remaining, it's: Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Rosberg, Masa, Maldonado, Verstappen, Hamilton, Nasr and Button. Yes Button!

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