Ferrari hits back to lead Mercedes in FP3

© XPB 

Ferrari hit back to set the fastest time of FP3 and ignite hopes of a qualifying battle at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Mercedes had been fastest throughout Friday by more than a second over the rest of the field, but supersoft tyre runs towards the end of final practice saw Sebastian Vettel set the pace with a 1:31.683. Vettel was just 0.04s clear of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, while Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were more than 0.4s adrift.

Valtteri Bottas was fifth fastest for Williams ahead of the surprise of the session as Romain Grosjean was sixth for Haas and team-mate Esteban Gutierrez eighth.

While the quicker times from Ferrari are encouraging in terms of hoping for a close fight in qualifying, it should be noted that FP3 took place in the afternoon sun with much higher track temperatures than have been seen so far this weekend. Qualifying, on the other hand, will run under floodlights after dark.

Vettel was the busiest driver in the session having missed out on some running in FP2 when he stopped on track, completing 22 laps compared to 13 for Raikkonen. The pair were the only drivers to dip under 1m32s on Saturday, though Rosberg posted a 1:31.001 during FP2 on Friday.

Five teams had both drivers in the top ten - Ferrari, Mercedes, Williams, Haas and Red Bull - while half a second covered 7th to 16th. Both Toro Rosso and Force India opted not to set times on supersoft tyres in the final session, with Pascal Wehrlein also only using the soft tyres.

Stoffel Vandoorne recovered from an oil leak to set the 14th fastest time, impressively lapping just 0.04s slower than team-mate Jenson Button. The session ended with Jolyon Palmer - 20th ahead of the two Manor drivers - limping back to the pits with a left rear puncture.

AS IT HAPPENED: Bahrain Grand Prix FP3

Romain Grosjean's exclusive F1i column - Bahrain

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Pos Driver Team Time Laps
01 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:31.683 22
02 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:31.723 13
03 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.104 18
04 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:32.160 14
05 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:32.675 18
06 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:33.082 14
07 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:33.113 10
08 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:33.337 14
09 Felipe Massa Williams 1:33.363 18
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:33.519 20
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:33.569 16
12 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:33.617 9
13 Jenson Button McLaren 1:33.704 12
14 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:33.744 11
15 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:33.778 20
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:34.003 20
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:34.013 15
18 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:34.128 16
19 Sergio Perez Force India 1:34.281 15
20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:34.424 9
21 Rio Haryanto Manor 1:35.546 15
22 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:35.724 16