A stunning Arabian sky greeted the F1 fraternity after the cloudy weather of Friday, and it was Ferraru’s Sebastian Vettel who clocked the fastest time on Saturday afternoon.
It was a session including a lot of medium-tyre running for most teams, including McLaren and Force India, who appeared well down the order.
Mercedes set the early pace with Nico Rosberg, but later on in the session Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen topped the sheets, at the track where he got his best result the previous year.
He was then pipped in the last few minutes by team mate Sebastian Vettel, who posted a time just four hundredths quicker.
It was a trying session for McLaren debutant Stoffel Vandoorne (who deputises for the injured Fernando Alonso this weekend) when a suspected oil leak left him in the garage with the floor off for most of the session. He was, for the first 45 minutes, the only driver not to have set a time, but when the oil leak was revealed just to be a spillage, he headed out and set a time just behind that of McLaren team mate Jenson Button.
Jolyon Palmer’s baptism by fire in F1 continued as the chequered flag came out, when a right-rear puncture manifested itself on his final lap, presumably due to running over a kerb in the middle sector.
Ferrari look strong, but it remains to be seen whether Mercedes were sandbagging, or the Scuderia are a genuine threat.
Times from FP3
1) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari 1:31.683 (22 Laps)
2) Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari 1:31.723 (13 Laps)
3) Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1:32.104 (18 Laps)
4) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1:32.160 (14 Laps)
5) Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes 1:32.675 (18 Laps)
6) Romain Grosjean, Haas-Ferrari 1:33.082 (14 Laps)
7) Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1:33.113 (10 Laps)
8) Esteban Gutiérrez, Haas-Ferrari 1:33.337 (14 Laps)
9) Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes 1:33.363 (18 Laps)
10) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1:33.519 (20 Laps)
11) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber-Ferrari 1:33.569 (16 Laps)
12) Kevin Magnussen, Renault 1:33.617 (9 Laps)
13) Jenson Button, McLaren-Honda 1:33.704 (12 Laps)
14) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren-Honda 1:33.744 (11 Laps)
15) Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:33.778 (20 Laps)
16) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:34.003 (20 Laps)
17) Felipe Nasr, Sauber-Ferrari 1:34.013 (15 Laps)
18) Nico Hülkenberg, Force India-Mercedes 1:34.128 (16 Laps)
19) Sergio Pérez, Force India-Mercedes 1:34.281 (15 Laps)
20) Jolyon Palmer, Renault 1:34.424 (9 Laps)
21) Rio Haryanto, Manor-Mercedes 1:35.546 (15 Laps)
22) Pascal Wehrlein, Manor-Mercedes 1:35.724 (16 Laps)