Sebastian Vettel topped final practice for the Austrian Grand Prix as Nico Rosberg crashed due to a suspension failure.
Rosberg was on a qualifying simulation run when his left rear suspension failed as he accelerated out of Turn 2, with the car being pitched left and hitting the barrier head on. Rosberg was unhurt in the incident – which brought out the red flag – and the damage to the car was largely confined to the left rear corner and the nose.
Vettel was already quickest at the time of Rosberg’s accident, with his time of 1:07.098 being the fastest of the weekend so far. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen ensured it was a Ferrari one-two as he posted a 1:07.234, with both drivers using the ultrasoft tyre. While Vettel’s pace is encouraging, the German will take a five-place grid penalty after qualifying for a gearbox change.
Lewis Hamilton was third quickest after admitting on Friday that he is not quick enough around the Red Bull Ring, with the defending champion 0.210s slower than Vettel on his late lap. Hamilton had earlier complained of problems with his rear tyres as Mercedes saw blistering on the ultrasoft compound during its high fuel runs.
The majority of drivers set their best times on new ultrasoft tyres, but Hamilton can attribute some of the deficit to Ferrari to the fact he was on used ultrasofts having had to abort his first run when Rosberg crashed.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth quickest for Red Bull, half a second off Vettel’s time just ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen as 0.122s separated the pair. The Two Williams drivers of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were sixth and seventh respectively – 0.7s off the pace – with Bottas suffering a spin at the final corner when set to improve late on.
Nico Hulkenberg was over 1.1s off the pace in eighth but set his best time on supersofts, with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso rounding out the top ten.
Pascal Wehrlein was an encouraging 13th quickest for Manor as he suggested he could fight for a place in Q2 this afternoon. Wehrlein split the two Haas drivers, with both having set their times on supersofts. The two Toro Rossos struggled in FP3, with Daniil Kvyat 16th and Carlos Sainz 18th.
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Mercedes is investigating the reason for Rosberg’s failure but should be able to repair the car in time for qualifying. The team will also analyse whether the gearbox was damaged in the incident, as a replacement would result in a five-place grid penalty.
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