NEW LAP RECORD: Ferrari's Sebastien Vettel broke the Albert Park circuit lap record in the final session ahead qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. AFP / Josep Lago
Melbourne - Sebastian Vettel had the fastest lap in the last practice before qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday, ending Lewis Hamilton's run at the top of the time charts ahead of the Formula One season opener.
Vettel drove his Ferrari around the 5.3km Albert Park circuit in 1minute:23.380 seconds and was almost a half-second faster than Mercedes pair Valterri Bottas, who was second quickest in 1:23.859, and Hamilton in 1:23.870.
Strong display by Ferrari
Vettel's Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was fractionally under 1:24 to post the fourth-quickest time, and was the only other driver to go under 1:25, despite stopping on the track early in the session.
Michael Schumacher holds the mark for the fastest racing lap at the Melbourne circuit, recording 1:24.125 on the way to victory in 2004.
With expectations that the new mechanical and tire regulations will make the F1 cars faster this year, that record could fall. Vettel's time was the fastest for a lap at the circuit.
As it happened: Australian GP - 3rd Practice
The last practice session ended under red flag when 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll went too wide and clipped the wall on turn 11 with 10 minutes to go, damaging his right rear wheel.
Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg pushed up into fifth, 1.683 seconds behind Vettel, and Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo was sixth.
The teams had two hours to fine-tune before the first qualifying session of the season started at 8:00am Central African Time.
Hamilton won pole position here last year but finished second to then Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who went on to beat him for the world drivers' title and then retired.
While most were tipping Hamilton as favorite to win a third Australian GP title, the British driver had picked Ferrari as the favorite based on pre-season testing.