Nico Rosberg set the pace in final practice ahead of qualifying in Melbourne

Mercedes driver 1.3s faster than Button; Hamilton makes error; Vettel 12th fastest; Gearbox woe for Bottas; Lotus still struggling

By Mike Wise in Melbourne.   Last Updated: 15/03/14 11:16am

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Nico Rosberg: P3 pacesetter

Nico Rosberg: P3 pacesetter

Nico Rosberg set the pace in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Australian GP as Mercedes once again showed their rivals a clean pair of heels in Melbourne.

The German lapped the 5.303km Albert Park track in a time of 1:29.375s to go almost 1.4s faster than second-placed Jenson Button. Rosberg's team-mate Lewis Hamilton was fourth fastest and would have gone faster but for an error at Turn Nine on his qualifying practice run.

The pair ran one-two during Friday practice and were there again early in the session, with Rosberg's advantage over Button clearly suggesting the advantage Mercedes - whose drivers had both finished their programmes with ten minutes of the session still to run - hold over the field.

Behind Button came Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo next up behind Hamilton. However, Sebastian Vettel ended the session down in P12, with the World Champion sounding unhappy with the performance of his Renault-powered RB10.

Vettel at least managed to keep his frustration in check, unlike Romain Grosjean, who completed only two laps and described his recalcitrant Lotus E22 as "unbelievable". Team-mate Pastor Maldonado managed 15 laps but broke down on track at the end of the session.

Elsewhere, Force India pair Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were sixth and ninth fastest respectively, sandwiching Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari and the McLaren of Kevin Magnussen. Raikkonen, who appears less comfortable in the F14 T than his team-mate, was another who sounded frustrated with his progress.

Rosberg had the luxury of ending his session ten minutes early

One driver with good reason to feel that way was Valtteri Bottas, who completed just two laps in his Williams before suffering a gearbox failure. Speaking to Sky Sports F1, the team's technical boss Pat Symonds said they should be able to change it ahead of qualifying, although the Finn will pick up a five-place grid penalty.

Team-mate Felipe Massa was tenth fastest, with Toro Rosso pair Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne 11th and 13th respectively. At the back of the field, Caterham pair Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson completed valuable mileage after their difficulties on Friday, with the Swedish rookie almost 7s off the pace.

Although Pirelli have promised more durable compounds this season, drivers complained during the session about tyre wear on both the medium and soft compounds. Furthermore, a strong wind on Lakeside Drive caused a number of drivers besides Hamilton to run off track. Qualifying starts at 6am GMT.

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Practice 3 Times

F1 Driver Standings Table 15
Position Driver Nationality Team Pts
1 Rosberg Mercedes 1:29.375
2 Button McLaren 1.391
3 Alonso Ferrari 1.501
4 Hamilton Mercedes 1.544
5 Ricciardo Red Bull 1.595
6 Hulkenberg Force India 1.603
7 Raikkonen Ferrari 1.781
8 Magnussen McLaren 1.876
9 Perez Force India 2.290
10 Massa Williams 2.348


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