Chinese GP, Practice Three: Valtteri Bottas ahead, Alex Albon crashes
Watch qualifying on Sky Sports F1 at 7am, build-up from 6am
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 13/04/19 5:54am
Valtteri Bottas ensured Mercedes hold an advantage over Ferrari heading into Chinese GP qualifying as he set the pace in final practice.
Bottas finished almost four tenths of a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel, with the German's Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc two hundredths of a second behind in third.
Qualifying starts at 7am, with Sky F1's build-up from 6am.
Lewis Hamilton, who admitted he "struggled" in Friday's running, failed to challenge his rivals and finished a surprising 0.859s off the pace after making errors during his flying laps on the soft tyre.
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"I'm worried about Lewis," said Hamilton's former team-mate, Sky F1's Nico Rosberg. "He's having one of his off starts to the weekend where he loses motivation.
"He's so far back, that I don't think he's going to have a shot at pole today."
Bottas' lead would usually point to Mercedes being favourites for qualifying, but the battle should be much closer than Practice Three suggested.
Vettel was on course for a quick time before making errors through the final sectors, and in the end his quickest time was set on his very first lap with the high-powered Ferrari still gaining time on Mercedes on the straights.
But Rosberg was certainly impressed by Bottas, who replaced him at Mercedes, claiming: "He has a clear pace advantage."
The session was ended after a huge crash for Alex Albon with six minutes remaining - further ruining any more flying laps - and the Toro Rosso driver now looks a major doubt for qualifying.
Albon lost control of his car when running wide onto the astro-turf at the final corner, and clattered into the barriers - leaving his Toro Rosso in a crumpled heap.
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Renault impressed again in final practice with Nico Hulkenberg fifth, just ahead of Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, but Red Bull endured a sloppy session with Max Verstappen seventh and Pierre Gasly only 15th.
Gasly is hoping to reach Q3 for the first time this season in Shanghai qualifying.
McLaren were eighth and 11th through Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, and the battle for the final shootout looks like it will be closer than ever.
Chinese GP Practice Three Timesheet
|1) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1:32.830|
|2) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+0.392|
|3) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.412|
|4) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.859|
|5) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+1.144|
|6) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1.416|
|7) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+1.617|
|8) Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+1.680|
|9) Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso||+1.770|
|10) Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+1.953|
|11) Lando Norris||McLaren||+2.108|
|12) Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+2.248|
|13) Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+2.312|
|14) Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+2.393|
|15) Pierre Gasly||Red Bull||+2.496|
|16) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+2.896|
|17) Romain Grosjean||Haas||+2.941|
|18) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+3..168|
|19) George Russell||Williams||+3.294|
|20) Robert Kubica||Williams||+3.346|
Watch the Chinese GP, F1's 1,000th race, live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend. Sky Sports is the home of live and exclusive F1. Find out more here to watch the 2019 season live