Vettel fastest in final Austrian GP practice

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There was also a slight on-track moment between Vettel and Hamilton during the hour-long session, with the Ferrari driver believing he was being held up and gesturing inside the cockpit as he was forced to back off at Turn 8.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel finished Free Practice 3 ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton who had an apparent brake problem on his Mercedes. For Hamilton the damage had been done nearly a week before.

A dejected Hamilton was contemplating starting the race from eighth place on the grid because of a five-place penalty.

Even with pole, at the best he would have started from was sixth.

The Briton, at his sizzling best despite power problems with his auto, clocked a best time of one minute and 5.483 seconds in the afternoon's second session to outpace Vettel's Ferrari by 0.147 seconds.

He said in a packed press conference of Thursday: 'At the time I was surprised. You go in with a really positive mind about coming back and fighting.

The task he faces is enormous.

Valtteri Bottas has no intention of changing his approach to the Austrian Grand Prix in order to help Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari will trial a new transparent frontal protection cockpit "shield" in British Grand Prix practice at Silverstone next week, Formula One's governing body said yesterday.

Hamilton won past year with now-retired team mate Nico Rosberg triumphant in 2014 and 2015.

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Nico Hulkenberg came within 0.010 seconds of making it into Q3 but dropped out and will start 11th for Renault.

"It got better this morning [in FP3] and then it's a matter of figuring out the balance and the set-up and obviously we were a step behind but we made the most out of it today". Red Bull - 137 points 4. "It makes sense for him to push as hard as he can to win the race. We've still got great performance and hopefully I can do a good job for the team tomorrow and get some good points".

"If you start playing games it gets tricky. If the vehicle behind gets into the DRS zone it only needs one mistake and you lose the win".

"It makes no sense for Valtteri to slow down, so that will not be the case".

He also has the chance to take a different strategy to come through the field. The team said it was a brake disk failure and Hamilton's mechanics worked frantically to get his auto ready for qualifying. Vettel won that race but Mercedes have triumphed in Austria in every year since the Red Bull Ring returned to the calendar in 2014.

Hamilton lost a little running time due to a spark plug change and complained during his long-run stint towards the end of the session that he felt a little uncomfortable, but it was no major issue as he once again set the pace.

This was a squall conjured from nothing and signifying even less.

Next comes Max Verstappen, with Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Hamilton, Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz making up the top 10 at the Red Bull Ring.

And not to tempt fate, but it's not been a bad showing from the McLarens so far this weekend - respectable Q2 departures for Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.