Lewis Hamilton completed a hat-trick of P1 finishes in practice for the Australian Grand Prix by topping the final session ahead of qualifying on Saturday morning at Albert Park.
Drivers were afforded their first dry running of the weekend in the 60-minute FP3, allowing Mercedes to show its true colors as Hamilton led home teammate Nico Rosberg for a one-two finish.
Ferrari hoped to build on its strong showing in testing by running Mercedes close in final practice, and although Sebastian Vettel finished the session just two-tenths behind Hamilton, the status quo appears unchanged from the end of 2015.
Mercedes bided its time before unleashing both Rosberg and Hamilton on their low fuel runs and offering the first sign of the true pace of the new W07 car.
Rosberg duly resumed normal service with his first flying lap, going six-tenths quicker than the rest of the pack to take P1 with 25 minutes remaining. Hamilton followed suit after a suspension change, slotting in to second place.
Ferrari responded by sending Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen out on the super-soft tire, with the latter splitting the soft-shod Mercedes drivers initially.
Vettel rose to P1, beating Rosberg by three-tenths of a second before Mercedes sent its drivers back out on super-softs. Rosberg beat Vettel’s time by half a tenth before Hamilton went faster still to take P1 overall, his time being good enough for top spot come the end of the session.
Rosberg retained second place ahead of Vettel at the checkered flag, while a late lap from Carlos Sainz Jr. saw him finish fourth ahead of Raikkonen and Toro Rosso teammate Max Verstappen.
Valtteri Bottas ended FP3 in seventh place for Williams ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Felipe Massa finished ninth in the second FW38 car, beating Force India’s Sergio Perez in P10.
Haas F1 Team looked to get both of its drivers out early to complete its first dry running around the Albert Park circuit, only for a run-in with Rio Haryanto in the pit lane at the start of the session to set Romain Grosjean back. Haas changed the floor on the Frenchman’s car as a precaution, and he managed to finish the session 19th. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez ended FP3 just ahead in P18.
Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 2am ET on Saturday.