Lewis Hamilton carried on the dominant pace he had in Friday practice with the world champion topping the standings and beating his teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg with a stunning lap time in final practice.
Having set the pace on Friday – in which he beat his teammate in both sessions – Hamilton stepped up a gear and stamped down his authority and move almost a second clear at the top of the timesheets, as the teams went onto their qualifying runs.
Hamilton’s lap time was a 1:34.434 – six tenths faster than Rosberg’s best attempt. The margin was larger after the first soft runs – 0.859s – but Rosberg improved on his second lap.
Rosberg’s deficit to Hamilton was even more pronounced when the duo where on their hard tyre runs, with Hamilton lapping almost a full second faster than his German counterpart.
The Red Bull of Max Verstappen had a good session, splitting the Mercedes’ in 2nd, 0.445s behind Hamilton with a stirring lap that enabled him to leapfrog Rosberg.
Verstappen’s team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was down in sixth place, behind Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. But, the Australian focused on race preparation and did not complete a quail sim until late in the session meaning his lap was not necessarily representative.
Red Bull seem to be in good from this weekend and look set to spoil Mercedes’ party on Sunday. On their long runs on Friday, the Brackley outfit matched the pace of Mercedes consistently and are expected to be challenging Mercedes for that top spot when it comes to race day.
The Ferrari’s where ahead of Ricciardo with Kimi Raikkonen in 4th and Sebastien Vettel in 5th, the Finn was 0.02s quicker than the four-time world champion.
Vettel struggled with the newly profiled track, the four-time champion had a spin midway through the session at the tricky and now off camber final corner.
The battle between Force India and Williams is still on going, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in seventh ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas in 8th. Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz was in 9th. With Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez in 10th and 11th respectively.
Jenson Button on his 300th grand prix weekend finished the practice session in 12th, with his team-mate Fernando Alonso finishing 22nd as he solely concentrated on race preparation work because of his 45-place penalty for taking too many engine parts.