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Championship leader Nico Rosberg faces a race against time to make it out on track in qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix after crashing heavily during third free practice at the Red Bull Ring.

The German was beginning a hot lap on the ultra-soft tyres when he suffered a left-rear suspension failure exiting the turn two hairpin and speared into the barriers.

Prompting a red flag period to recover the damaged Mercedes W07, the title-winning team faces a challenge to get the car fixed in time for qualifying later this afternoon, not to mention investigate the suspension issue itself.

Regardless, Mercedes has since confirmed he will receive a new gearbox as a result of the damage, thus sustaining a five-place grid penalty.

A difficult session all round for the Mercedes team, Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had both reported significant blistering on the 'purple' compound after only a few laps, with the defending champion only able to put in the third quickest time on his fast run.

Instead, it was Ferrari that would emerge top of FP3, with Sebastian Vettel - who will take a five-place grid penalty after qualifying - and Kimi Raikkonen locking out the top two positions.

Red Bull followed up in fourth and fifth place with Daniel Ricciardo leading Max Verstappen, albeit more than half a second off the ultimate pace, with Williams following up closely behind, Valtteri Bottas - who spun late on at the final corner - and Felipe Massa in sixth and seventh

Nico Hulkenberg headed up Force India's challenge in eighth position, with the McLarens of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso completing the top ten.

Elsewhere, Pascal Wehrlein was an impressive 13th quickest in the Manor, while Carlos Sainz managed just 11 laps after suffering engine issues on his Toro Rosso.