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VETTEL ON TOP AT ALBERT PARK

Ferrari has struck back in the final Practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel took fastest time in the 60-minute session, which was cut short by a few minutes after Lance Stroll hit the wall in his Williams.

Vettel topped Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, with a time of 1m23.380s, nearly half a second faster than the Finn. It was the most convincing performance of the weekend from the Ferrari team, which has struggled to distil the speed that its car showed in pre-season testing.

Third fastest was Lewis Hamilton, who topped both Friday sessions. He was only 0.011s slower than Bottas, and remains the favourite of many to take pole position.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, in spite of losing time during the session. The Finn stopped with a tyre problem, which forced him to take to an escape road.

Fifth place was a big surprise, with Nico Hulkenburg talking the spot in the Renault, ahead of local favourite Daniel Ricciardo. Neither Red Bull driver could quite get the best out of the Ultra Soft Pirelli tyres, and Max Verstappen was a frustrated 12th fastest overall.

Also struggling was Williams. Felipe Massa was only 11th, and new teammate Stroll will be starting his first Grand Prix from the pitlane, the team electing to change a gearbox – which would automatically result in a 10-spot grid penalty anyway.

Antonio Giovinazzi was slowest. The Italian received a late call-up to replace Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein just before the session started, after the German started to suffer from a lack of fitness, prompted by his off-season back injury. Giovinazzi was just over one second behind teammate Marcus Ericsson.