TOP OF THE SHEETS: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton is determined to grab pole for the Chinese GP on Sunday after setting the fastest times in all three practice sessions. Image: AFP / Johannes Eisele
SHANGHAI, China - Lewis Hamilton backed up his strong claims for a third-straight pole by topping the timesheets in the final practice session for the Chinese GP in his Mercedes on Saturday (April 11).
Hamilton lapped the 5.4km Shanghai International Circuit in 1min37.615sec to complete a clean sweep of pre-qualifying dominance after previously leading the way in both of Friday's sessions.
Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg was second, two-tenths of a second slower than the reigning champion, followed by the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Vettel and Ferrari continue to lead the chasing pack behind the dominant German outfit and will be hoping to follow up the driver's stunning win in Malaysia with another strong showing in China. The team made the most of sweltering track conditions in Sepang and are comfortably the closest challengers to Mercedes this weekend but appear unable to match the formidable one-lap pace of the championship leaders in cooler Chinese conditions.
Daniel Ricciardo fortified his claim that Red Bull is the third fastest on the grid by setting the fifth-quickest time ahead of team mate Daniil Kvyat.
Williams endured a disappointing session in their bid to re-establish themselves as a possible winner in China and could only manage the eighth and 11th-fastest times with Valtteri Bottas finishing ahead of Felipe Massa.
Massa, whose Friday action came to an abrupt end after a high-speed accident, complained of smoke in the cockpit during the session.
McLaren had enjoyed an encouraging day of running on Friday but their reliability issues resurfaced as Fernando Alonso ground to a halt moments after he exited the pits on his first lap, with his Honda-powered car smoking from the rear.
Jenson Button, who had ended Friday in the top-10, could only finish 15th but the 2009 F1 champion is at least on course to make it through to the second session of qualifying, a feat beyond McLaren in the first two rounds of the season.
Qualifying starts at 8.50am SA-time on Saturday, April 11.
2015 Chinese GP 3rd practice times on Saturday
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min37.615
2 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min37.841
3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min38.313
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min38.512
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) RedBull 1min39.020
6 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) RedBull 1min39.106
7 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 1min39.113
8 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min39.243
9 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 1min39.274
10 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min39.405
11 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min39.410
12 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min39.513
13 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 1min39.559
14 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber 1min39.591
15 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min39.694
16 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus 1min39.766
17 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 1min39.781
18 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia 1min42.928
19 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia 1min44.956
20 Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren
2015 Chinese F1 GP second Friday practice times
2015 Chinese F1 GP first Friday practice times