Sebastian Vettel set the pace in final practice beating team-mate Kimi Räikkönen by more than four tenths of a second, with Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas third. There was trouble for Daniel Ricciardo, though, with the Red Bull driver exiting the session with what looked to be an engine failure.
In cool temperatures and with a strong wind sweeping across the track, the session was slow to get going with Räikkönen setting the early pace with a time of 1:34.794. That stood until Ferrari team-mate Vettel joined the fray. The German promptly lowered the benchmark to 1:33.689, some 1.1s ahead of the Finn 18 minutes in.
As the session approached the half hour mark Lewis Hamilton had a lurid spin after getting onto the artificial grass on the exit of Turn 10. The Briton’s Mercedes swapped ends as he lost grip but he escaped unscathed, save for a large flat spot on his left-front tyre.
Red Bull Racing’s drivers sat out most of the first half of the session but when they did appear Ricciardo quickly jumped to sixth on the timesheet, 1.3s behind Vettel. The Australian didn’t get an opportunity to improve on that, however, as within minutes he was grinding to a halt with smoke and flames billowing from the back of his car – a suspected turbo failure ending his session and giving his team a race against time to ready his car for qualifying.
Team-mate Max Verstappen fared better and after running in P13 he vaulted to fourth place when the field made the switch to ultrasoft tyres. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Dutchman, however, and he complained of power delivery isssues a number of time during the session.
Ahead, Vettel managed to hold station at the top of the order with an ultrasoft run of 1:33.018. That beat the earlier benchmark of 1:33469 set by team-mate Räikkönen, though the Finn’s lap was good enough to keep him almost three tenths of a second in front of Mercedes driver Bottas.
With Verstappen a further two tenths of a second back, fifth place went to defending champion Lewis Hamilton, whose scrappy session saw him finish a full second adrift of Vettel.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen took sixth spot 1.3s behind Vettel, with the Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon seventh and eighth respectively. Renault’s Carlos Sainz and Williams rookie Sergey Sirotkin completed the Top 10.
2018 Chinese Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:33.018
2 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:33.469 0.451
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:33.761 0.743
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:33.969 0.951
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:34.057 1.039
6 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:34.329 1.311
7 Sergio Perez Force India 1:34.445 1.427
8 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:34.456 1.438
9 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 1:34.582 1.564
10 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:34.741 1.723
11 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:34.841 1.823
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:34.851 1.833
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:34.977 1.959
14 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:34.991 1.973
15 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:35.061 2.043
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:35.079 2.061
17 Lance Stroll Williams 1:35.375 2.357
18 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:35.497 2.479
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:35.679 2.661
20 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:35.756 2.738