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Mercedes duo slug it out in final practice


Whilst Lewis Hamilton had more than his fair share of problems yesterday, at times appearing to spent more time spinning and running wide than actually staying on the black stuff, his banzai lap in FP2 soon silenced the doubters.

Fact is, other than Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen, most drivers had plenty of mishaps yesterday as they struggled for grip on this greenest of tracks. Indeed, last night Paul Hembery admitted that it is entirely possible the medium compound won't see the light of day today or tomorrow.

Whilst Sebastian Vettel was second on the timesheets, the reality is that Ferrari is still struggling in terms of reliability, the German having missed much of FP2 with an electronic issue.

There was more bad news later when the team opted to change his gearbox - having discovered a problem caused in that first lap clash in China - resulting in a five-place grid penalty.

It's an important weekend for Ferrari, which has dipped even further into its token allowance, meaning that both drivers will have all-new engines for the remainder of the weekend. With an eye on the Italian team, Mercedes has also spent a couple of tokens on its fuel system, though Hamilton and Rosberg will still use the same engines they used in China.

The Aeroscreen aside, it was a good day also for Red Bull which is increasingly impressing, with Williams also very much in the mix.

A good day for McLaren also, with both Button and Alonso in the top ten. Let's hope this mark a real step forward and not a flash in the pan.

Behind the top ten it was pretty much business as usual, Toro Rosso, Force India, Renault, Haas, Sauber and Manor, Jolyon Palmer having a particularly difficult day.

Air temperature is 17 degrees C, whilst the track temperature is 33 degrees, a little warmer than the start of FP2 yesterday. It is bright but there's lots of cloud cover.

Nearly all the teams had problems getting the supers up to temperature yesterday, something they'll be looking at today.

The lights go green and Gutierrez leads the way, followed by Vettel, Wehrlein, Magnussen, Nasr, Grosjean and a heap of others. All are on mediums (yes, we know), bar Vettel who is on supers. The Force India duo are on softs.

Cameras pick up on Magnussen engulfed in brake dust and spark as he locks-up.

Verstappen is the first driver to run wide, the Toro Rosso making his mistake at T4. There will be others...

Palmer posts the first time of the day (45.366), as Ericsson goes second ahead of Verstappen and Sainz.

Ricciardo is the first of the 'big guns' to post a time, the Australian stopping the clock at 40.279.

Vettel, like Ricciardo on supers, posts 42.372 to go second, 2.093s off the Red Bull's pace.

Verstappen (supers) posts 39.785 but is almost instantly leapfrogged by his teammate who posts 39.691.

A 39.151 sees Perez (supers) go top, as Ricciardo looks set to improve. Sure enough the Australian posts a 38.895.

Out come the yellows as Perez is up against the barrier at T13 The Mexican appears to have had a brake issue and taken to the run off but then ran out of room in which to turn finding himself against the barriers and needing the aid of a marshal. As it happen, prior to the incident Perez was looking likely to go quickest.

Seventeen minutes in and Rosberg is on track on the supers. Posting PBs in all three sectors he can only manage 14th (51.278). Not sure what happened there.

Raikkonen (softs) goes ninth with a 41.242 as Hamilton comes out to play sporting a set of supers.

Looking set to improve, Rosberg gets it wrong at T13 but unlike Perez is able to continue. Elsewhere, Raikkonen goes second (39.045) having been quickest in S1.

Hamilton goes quickest in S1 on his first flying lap of the day. He maintains the pace in S2 as Kvyat goes third overall (39.047). At the line Hamilton posts 38.217 to go quickest by 0.678s.

As Rosberg goes quickest in S1, Raikkonen makes a mistake at today's trouble-spot (T13).

Rosberg maintains the pace in S2 and S3, crossing the line at 37.722 to eclipse his teammate by 0.495. That said, he ran wide (all four wheels) in the final corner.

"Much cooler conditions today," confirms Pirelli, "this will affect grip and mean that it takes tyres longer to come up to temperature."

Approaching 'half-time', we've yet to see a time from either McLaren driver.

Going quickest in all three sectors sees Hamilton re-take the top spot with a 37.325.

It's currently: Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Bottas, Kvyat, Massa, Perez, Sainz and Verstappen.

Rosberg hits back with a 37.224, third-placed Raikkonen now 1.207s off the pace.

In his desperation to regain supremacy, Hamilton is the latest to get it wrong in T13, the Briton's car disappearing in a great cloud of smoke as he carries too much speed and locks-up.

Alonso posts his first time of the day, the Spaniard going 16th with 40.673. Moments later Button posts 39.372 to go tenth. Both are on softs.

The driver who has completed the most laps (19), is Vettel, who is currently at the foot of the timesheets, suggesting that he is fully focussed on tomorrow as opposed to qualifying.

Alonso improves to tenth with a 39.331, thereby demoting his teammate.

Another excursion for Perez, this time at T15, the Mexican celebrating his 100th GP weekend in his own unique way.


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