SHANGHAI: Lewis Hamilton underlined his superior pace by lapping quickest in Saturday’s final free practice for the Chinese Grand Prix after some initial discomfort from an overheating cockpit.
After asking for his seat to be replaced normal service was quickly resumed as the Briton again topped the timesheets in Shanghai with a fastest lap of one minute, 37.615 seconds — just ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who stunned the dominant Mercedes by winning in Malaysia two weeks ago, clocked the third fastest time 0.698 seconds behind Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari fourth.
The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were next quickest.
Former world champion Fernando Alonso’s woes continued as his McLaren rolled to a stop with smoke coming from the rear end at the start of his out-lap.
The Spaniard trudged forlornly back to the pits while his car was covered with a black sheet back in the garage — symbolic of McLaren’s dismal start to the season and Alonso’s misfortune on his return from Ferrari.
Red Bull and Williams also had mechanical issues, Red Bull warning Kvyat to take care of his brakes while Felipe Massa returned to the pits after complaining of smoke in the cockpit.
Hamilton, who has won the Chinese Grand Prix three times, including last year, quickly set the fastest lap on joining the fray and never looked troubled as the Briton completed a clean sweep of the three practice sessions in sunny conditions.
Mercedes racked up 16 victories in 19 races last year and again pulverised their rivals in this season’s opener in Melbourne before Vettel stopped the rot by upsetting the Silver Arrows in Sepang to end Ferrari’s 34-race winless streak.