Sebastian Vettel rediscovers pace to top final practice in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan Grand Prix - FP3

Sebastian Vettel rediscovers pace to top final practice in Azerbaijan

29/04/2018

Sebastian Vettel topped the final practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after a complete reversal in form following Friday practice.

After finishing second practice in 11th place, setup changes overnight left Vettel with more confidence in his Ferrari and he set a time 0.361s clear of Lewis Hamilton to secure the fastest time on Saturday morning.

Friday's pace setters Red Bull had their session compromised by a late red flag for Sergey Sirotkin's crashed Williams, resulting in a rushed qualifying simulation as the session restarted with just three minutes on the clock. While the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers had enjoyed clear air for their quick laps, Daniel Ricciardo ended up aborting his attempt at the end of the session after coming across traffic in the middle sector. He ended up 12th in the standings as a result.

Ricciardo's Friday time still stands as the fastest of the weekend after blustery winds and a dusty track surface made for difficult conditions on Saturday morning. Hamilton was among the drivers struggling at the start of the session and only unlocked more of his car's potential when his engineer's instructed him to take Turn 16 in fourth gear like teammate Valtteri Bottas instead of the third gear he was previously using. His first sector was the fastest of all, proving that the Mercedes is still fast on long straights and through 90 degree corners.

Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen were within 0.1s of Hamilton in third and fourth, although Raikkonen ran wide on the exit of Turn 16 and the preparation for Verstappen's lap was rushed due to the red flag. Both will hope to improve and challenge for the front row come qualifying.

Valtteri Bottas was just over a tenth off his Mercedes teammate and set the fifth fastest time with a comfortable 0.367s buffer to Sergio Perez's Force India in sixth. Kevin Magnussen was seventh for Haas ahead of an impressive and much-improved performance from Williams' Lance Stoll in eighth.

Stroll scored a podium in Baku last year, and although such lofty targets are unlikely to be matched this weekend, both Williams were in the top ten.The only downer for the British team was Sirotkin's mistake in the closing stages of the session when he hit the wall at Turn 3. The Russian appeared to take too much speed into the corner and demolished the left-front corner of his car against the barriers on the exit. The Williams mechanics will face a tight turnaround to get the car ready for the start of qualifying later today.

Fernando Alonso was 11th fastest for McLaren ahead of Ricciardo's out of position Red Bull and Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso. Charles Leclerc was 14th in the Sauber ahead of Romain Grosjean, who suffered with problems under braking for Turn 16 throughout the session. Like the Red Bulls, the two Renaults missed out on a clean qualifying simulation, leaving Carlos Sainz in 16th and Nico Hulkenberg in 17th.

Stoffel Vandoorne's tricky weekend continued with the 18th fastest time ahead of Marcus Ericsson and Brendon Hartley in the final two positions.

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