TAKE THAT MERCEDES! Sebastian Vettel steered his Ferrari to top the time-sheets in the third and final practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Image: AP / Kamran Jebreili
Sakhir - Sebastian Vettel topped the times ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in Saturday's third and final free practice ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
On a hot day in the desert, the four-time champion ended Mercedes' domination at the desert track with a best lap of 1 minute and 31.689 seconds.
This lifted him 0.040 seconds clear of Finn Raikkonen who is seeking a first win at the Bahrain International Circuit where he has seven times appeared on the podium.
Ferrari fight back
The Ferrari resurgence pushed the two Mercedes men down to third and fourth with Nico Rosberg and defending champion Lewis Hamilton four-tenths off the leading pace.
Rosberg had been fastest ahead of Hamilton in both first and second practice sessions on Friday, but the hotter weather changed the track conditions in Ferrari's favour.
Bottas was fifth fastest for Williams ahead of Frenchman Romain
Grosjean, who impressed again in the new Ferrari-powered Haas car.
Read: Bahrain GP - 3rd Practice - As it happened
Russian Daniil Kvyat was seventh for Red Bull ahead of Mexican Esteban Gutierrez in the second American Haas car, Felipe Massa in the second Williams, sporting a new shorter nose section, and Australian Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull.
After the cool conditions on Friday, final practice was run in more familiar weather with a vast blue sky, sunshine and an air temperature of 26o degrees. The track temperature at the Bahrain International Circuit was 38o degrees.
Todt questioned over qualifying format
Following the verbal interventions of commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone on Friday, the president of the sport's ruling body, the International Motoring Federarion (FIA), Jean Todt held a pre-session news conference at which he was questioned closely on the new format qualifying fiasco at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and the uncertainty surrounding its future.
The Frenchman said he hoped for unanimous support for a possible revision to the format as likely to be proposed at a meeting on Sunday (April 3) morning.
Todt said his favoured option was to retain the progressive elimination system in Q1 and Q2, but to revert to the former method for Q3.
Todt said: "I am optimistic about this."
Once the action began, Ricciardo was the first driver to set a flying lap time after 10 minutes before being overhauled by Perez and then the two Mercedes men with identical times.
Bottas and then Raikkonen took over at the top of the times, the flurry of action confirming the teams' anxiety to make the most of the changed conditions.
FIA rule out Alonso return
McLaren, whose boss Ron Dennis had applied unsuccessfully for two-time champion Fernando Alonso to drive, despite failing a medical test on Thursday, were left frustrated when his replacement Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne was delayed because of an oil leak. He ended up 19th, one place behind team-mate Briton Jenson Button.
Todt said: "It is a complete decision by the doctors," when asked about the FIA decision to reject McLaren's plea.
The FIA president said:"It is something that I discussed yesterday with the president of the medical commission, Gerard Saillant, and, probably, we should make one step forward in a deeper check after such an accident.
"Maybe something we need to think about is to make sure that the driver is followed very carefully for two, three or four days after such an incident.
Todt added: "But from what I understand, it is a very wise decision (to not allow Alonso to race) and the doctors will never consider giving an authorisation unless all the evidence is very clear to them."
The session was busy, but without major incidents other than two punctures suffered by Spaniard Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso and Briton Jolyon Palmer of Renault.
Provisional classification 3rd practice: