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Verstappen top in final practice

NEWS STORY
15/04/2017

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 34 degrees C, while the track temperature is 40 degrees. Other than the heat, the other noticeable factor is the strong wind that is blowing.

While this session takes place an hour after FP1, in many ways it is almost as unrepresentative as FP2 took place at the same time as qualifying and the start of the race... in cooler temperatures under floodlights as the sun goes down.

Nonetheless, the teams will be using the next hour, especially the final fifteen minutes or so, to good advantage.

Sebastian Vettel set the pace in both of yesterday's sessions, confirming - as if anyone doubted it - that Ferrari is now up there and able to take on Mercedes. However, it was the pace of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, particularly on his longer run, that really impressed.

However, it wasn't entirely trouble-free for the Scuderia yesterday, Raikkonen suffering a turbo issue in FP1 and Vettel an electrics problem in the second session.

Having encountered traffic, including a ludicrously slow Nico Hulkenberg, on his flying laps, a frustrated Lewis Hamilton was only able to finish fifth, leaving Valtteri Bottas to uphold Mercedes honours.

With Max Verstappen sidelined for much of the session by the damage caused by Bottas' errant T-wing, the way was clear for Daniel Ricciardo to show what the Red Bull can do. Though he finished third, just 0.066s off Vettel's pace, the Australian continues to play down the Austrian team's chances insisting that there is still a long way to go.

Said Hulkenberg was 'best of the rest', at a time Carlos Sainz describes the gap between the midfield and the leaders as a complete joke.

Speaking of the Spaniard, the Toro Rosso driver only completed 5 laps in the afternoon following an exhaust failure. Similarly, though far less surprising, Stoffel Vandoorne was sidelined by an MGU-H issue. Indeed, the McLaren driver had suffered a similar issue in FP1.

With a second and a half between the soft and supersoft, Pirelli also noted greater degradation on the red-banded rubber than seen in the previous two races.

The lights go green and Sainz leads the way, followed by Grosjean and Vettel.

Mediums are the order of the day, though we are unlikely to see them tomorrow.

"I've got a lot of understeer," complains Grosjean. "So I'm going to do the aero runs then I want you guys to check the data."

The Force India drivers are the first to switch to softs.

"My steering wheel is again left-hand down," warns Verstappen.

"Just by way of comparison, the best lap in FP3 last year was 1:31.683 from Kimi," says Pirelli, "Kimi has a great record in Bahrain."

Ocon, on the softs, posts the first time of the day, crossing the line at 34.415.

Sainz is on track on the supersofts, the Spaniard not having run them yesterday. As one would expect, he goes quickest with a 34.219.

Two practice starts and two installation laps for Hamilton as nobody really appears bothered about going out, such is the unrepresentativeness of this session.

"Front right brake doesn't work as well as the left," the Briton tells his crew at the end of his second run.

Eighteen minutes into the session, Stroll and Hulkenberg head out, the Canadian teenager, on supers, complaining of "hot feet" - not Happy Feet - yesterday.

As Stroll posts 36.036 to go fourth (of four), Hulkenberg goes quickest in S1. The German subsequently posts a 34.613 to go third.

After 22 minutes, Raikkonen is the only driver yet to be seen, while there are still only six names on the timesheets.

On the softs, Kvyat goes quickest with a 33.934, while Vandoorne (supers) posts 34.224 to go third.

As Kvyat is told to keep an eye on his front tyres, Alonso (softs) goes fifth with a 34.564.

Bottas heads out on the supers. As one would expect he goes quickest in S1. He maintains the pace in S2, but loses a heap of time when he runs wide in the final corner, seemingly caught out by the crosswind.

Grosjean is having a torrid time, the driver now complaining of oversteer. "We need to come in and change the front wing, I don't know, so much oversteer," he says, subsequently running wide.

Massa goes quickest on the supers (33.720), and with 24 minutes remaining all but Ricciardo, Hamilton and the Ferrari pair have posted times.

It gets worse for Grosjean who spins at T4 and hits the barriers with the rear of the Haas. "OK, I've crashed the car," he sighs.

The session is red flagged.

He is able to continue, despite having lost his front wing and heads back to the pits.

Just before Grosjean's off, Verstappen had a similar 'moment', however the Red Bull driver kept it all under control having just gone quickest with a 33.249 on softs.

As we await the all-clear the two Ferraris head down the pitlane, Raikkonen having been on track when the session was red flagged.

As the Ferrari begin their first flying laps, Hamilton heads out.

Having gone quickest in S1, Vettel is caught out by the wind and runs wide in T7.

Vettel posts 33.570 to go third, demoted to fourth moments later when teammate Raikkonen posts 32.785 to go quickest. Both are on the supers.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Bahrain, here.

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