Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen ended Mercedes’ dominance in the opening practice sessions on Friday by setting the fastest times in today’s final practice session in Shanghai. Vettel beat Ferrari team-mate Räikkönen by nearly half a second to finish in the top three for the first time this weekend.
Valtteri Bottas was the fastest of the Silver Arrows in third, seven-tenths off Vettel’s pace, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton looking less comfortable than yesterday in the final hour of practice. The reigning world champion spun at Turn 10 on wet artificial grass and had more than one off-track moment on his way to fifth.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen split the Mercedes cars with fourth, but the same couldn’t be said for team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. First, the Australian’s session started late because of a gearbox issue then he was forced to pull over after just four laps of running with a suspected turbo failure.
Romain Grosjean also experienced problems in his Haas. Having already spun out at Turn 10, the Frenchman returned to the pits with the rear brakes on his Haas on fire. The early end to his session meant he finished at the bottom of the timesheets.
On the other side of the garage, Kevin Magnussen continued his impressive form with sixth ahead of the seemingly much-improved Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon. Carlos Sainz was ninth for Renault, while Sergey Sirotkin finished an encouraging tenth for Williams.
Red Bull will now be in a race against the clock to have Ricciardo’s car ready for qualifying later this afternoon. Meanwhile, Mercedes will be looking to find their missing speed before qualifying.