Hamilton makes it three from three in final Bahrain practice

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Lewis Hamilton completed a hat-trick of fastest times during the final practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix today, and the Briton’s Mercedes team appears to be in unstoppable form ahead of qualifying later today.

Hamilton edged out teammate Nico Rosberg by just one-tenth of a second as the Silver Arrows once again enjoyed a significant advantage over the rest of the field.

Just as we saw in FP1 on Friday, most of the teams elected to wait in the pits at the beginning of the final practice session as the conditions – hot in daytime – were not representative of the night-time running that we will see later today in qualifying. Eventually, most of the teams did venture out after 20 minutes or so, fitted with a set of the harder compound tire.

Despite the likes of Marcus Ericsson and Daniil Kvyat sitting on top of the timesheets at points, Mercedes once again laid down an ominous pace in the first set of runs, continuing its form from yesterday. This time though, Nico Rosberg was the man in P1 ahead of Lewis Hamilton, whilst the Williams drivers posed the closest challenge over eight-tenths behind. After struggling in the wet conditions in Australia and Malaysia, both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas appear to be in better shape this weekend in Bahrain.

Sebastian Vettel’s session came to an early end after a rare mistake by the four-time world champion. Upon starting a new lap, the German driver applied too much power through turn two and spun off into the gravel. His car avoided hitting the wall, meaning that he will be able to run in qualifying without any problem. However, the team will still be unsure of where it lies on the soft tire over one lap, with these runs coming at the end of the session.

The teams soon turned their attention to the quicker soft-tire runs, and once again Mercedes romped to a one-two finish. In a flurry of déjà vu, Hamilton finished ahead of Rosberg by one-tenth of a second, giving the Silver Arrows a clean sweep at the top of the timesheets across all three practice sessions. The surprise package was Force India, who got its drivers well up into the top ten, and could be considered as a dark horse for a podium finish in Bahrain. Sergio Perez finished in third position ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, whilst teammate Nico Hulkenberg ended up in eighth place.

Ultimately, it was another dominant display from Mercedes who cantered to a third straight one-two finish in practice. It is difficult to see any other driver realistically challenging either Hamilton or Rosberg, meaning that it may come down to an inter-team battle for pole position later today.

You can watch qualifying live on CNBC and Live Extra from 11am ET.

Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”