Rosberg keeps Mercedes on top in FP3

Rosberg keeps Mercedes on top in FP3

15 March 2014 – Nico Rosberg kept Mercedes on top during final practice for the Australian Grand Prix, posting a best effort of 1:29.375 on Pirelli's Soft tyre to lead the McLaren of Jenson Button by more than a second.

After a 1-2 in Friday's second session, Mercedes quickly got up to speed as the track opened on Saturday afternoon, with Lewis Hamilton and Rosberg comfortably leading the way after the early Medium tyre runs.

When the field made the switch to the Option rubber, the Silver Arrows remained in charge. But it was only Rosberg who made an improvement, with Hamilton running wide at Turn 9 after an overall best first sector split.

Rosberg, whose biggest drama came when a thermal elbow protector worked its way loose, ultimately finished the session 1.391 seconds clear of nearest rival Button, a concerning message heading into qualifying.

Fernando Alonso put Ferrari third with his Soft tyre improvement, albeit it 0.043 seconds ahead of Hamilton's Medium tyre-shod Mercedes. The Spaniard's new team-mate, Kimi Räikkönen, wound up three tenths of a second and four positions back in seventh, after suffering early gremlins with his radio system.

Daniel Ricciardo kept Red Bull near the front of the timesheets, edging out Force India's Nico Hülkenberg for fifth. The World Champion outfit still faces issues, however, with the Toro Rosso graduate reporting persistent front-end problems, and 12th-placed Sebastian Vettel struggling to find a suitable engine map.

Kevin Magnussen, like team-mate Button, had a few more off-track excursions en route to eighth, while Force India driver Sergio Pérez – another to test the gravel traps – and Williams's Felipe Massa completed the top ten.

Sauber and Lotus plus Williams driver Valtteri Bottas endured a particularly challenging final session.

At Sauber, Adrian Sutil blasted the handling of his Sauber over the team radio, while team-mate Esteban Gutiérrez has to cope with a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change after his unit hit trouble.

Lotus added just 19 laps to their overall tally; Grosjean toured four times due to an engine misfire, while team-mate Pastor Maldonado was more than five seconds off the pace before stopping on track.

Bottas suffered the same fate as Gutiérrez, with mechanics swapping his gearbox before qualifying.

Saturday's qualifying session in Melbourne gets underway at 5pm local time (GMT +11)

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