Sebastian Vettel took over at top of the practice timesheets at the Red Bull Ring finishing just under three tenths of a second clear of chief title rival Lewis Hamilton who suffered a brake failure late in the session.
The Ferrari driver set a best time of 1:05.092 with just under a quarter of an hour left in the session. The German had been on course to claim top spot but after setting two fastest first sectors he came across a slower Hamilton and lost time in the last part of the circuit. He made up for on his next flying lap, however, finding a clean lap to beat Hamilton’s provisional P1 time by 0.269s.
Hamilton was unable to respond after he appeared to suffer a brake disc failure in the final minutes of the session. On the approach to Turn 3 the Briton hit the brakes and a cloud of black smoke burst from his right front wheel. He overshot the corner and skidded to a halt on an escape road. He was able to limp back to the pits but had not time to take to the track again.
It was an added frustration for Hamilton as he heads towards a qualifying session after which he will receive a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
Valtteri Bottas was third quickest in the second Mercedes, with the Finn almost half a second behind Vettel. Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth in the second Ferrari.
Fifth and sixth places in the session went to the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen held sway in the early part of the session but Ricciardo then moved ahead of his team-mate as the drivers set about their qualifying simulations and Verstappen complained that he was suffering with front lock-ups and excessive understeer.
The handling issues didn’t seem to unduly hamper the Dutch racer’s pace, however, and his qualifying run saw him edge out Ricciardo by just over a tenth of a second.
Behind the Red Bulls, Haas enjoyed a good session, with Kevin Magnussen seventh ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean. Magnussen finished just four hundredths of a second behind Ricciardo.
The final two places in the top 10 were filled by the Toro Rossos of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz.
Sainz slotted into tenth place after recovering from an early setback when his car stopped on track in the opening minutes of the session. After being recovered to the pits his team managed to rectify the issues and he finished the session 0.005s behind his Russian team-mate.
2017 Austrian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:05.092s – 18
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:05.361s 0.269s 21
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:05.515s 0.423s 19
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:05.611s 0.519s 19
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:05.784s 0.692s 24
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:05.896s 0.804s 29
7 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:05.936s 0.844s 21
8 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:06.015s 0.923s 22
9 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:06.279s 1.187s 28
10 Carlos Sainz Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:06.284s 1.192s 19
11 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:06.374s 1.282s 26
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:06.563s 1.471s 18
13 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:06.578s 1.486s 18
14 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:06.595s 1.503s 22
15 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:06.599s 1.507s 20
16 Lance Stroll Williams 1:06.776s 1.684s 22
17 Felipe Massa Williams 1:06.865s 1.773s 24
18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:06.875s 1.783s 28
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:07.378s 2.286s 21
20 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:07.468s 2.376s 25