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Lewis Hamilton heads into qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix as the man to beat for pole position after comfortably topping third free practice at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Completing a clean sweep of the three practice sessions, Hamilton's soft tyre run would see him stop the clock at 1min 37.615secs, putting him two tenths clear of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

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Ferrari remains Mercedes' nearest rival heading for qualifying, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen ending the session third and fourth fastest. However, with almost seven and nine tenths between the two drivers and the ultimate pace, its challenge over a single lap at least appears limited.

Despite proving almost 1.5secs adrift of Hamilton's time, Red Bull seemingly confirmed its upturn in pace since Malaysia by pairing off in fifth and sixth place in the order of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat, though the latter did end the session complaining of another technical issue on his final circulation a day after a brake failure pitched him into the barriers.

A strong session for the Toro Rosso drivers, Carlos Sainz was seventh fastest, with Max Verstappen in ninth position, the young pair sandwiching the best of the Williams' driven by Valtteri Bottas. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten in the Lotus

Forced to miss FP2 after an early crash, Felipe Massa made up mileage in 11th place, completing the session ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.

Having cracked the top ten in FP2, Jenson Button remains in the hunt for a Q2 challenge in qualifying after setting the 15th fastest time - three tenths off the top ten -, though his McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso is now under pressure after coming to a stop on the installation lap and failing to set a time.

Another driver forced to skip much of FP2 due to technical issues, Will Stevens returned to the track for Manor and proceeded to get within 107 per cent, putting him on course to qualify this afternoon.