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Ferrari has established itself as a genuine candidate for pole position in the Bahrain Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen unleashed the car's rapid single lap pace in FP3 by locking up the top two positions.

With Mercedes dominating the opening day of action around the Bahrain International Circuit, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton was expected to exert a similar advantage in FP3, the German again out-performing his team-mate by five hundredths of a second.

However, having played its cards close to its chest on Friday, Ferrari used FP3 to forge forward, with Raikkonen first coming through with a lap a sizeable fourth tenths faster than Rosberg, before Vettel improved the benchmark by another 0.040secs to 1m 31.683secs.

However, though it raises the prospect of a potential four-way pole position battle, it is worth noting qualifying will take place in cooler night-time conditions later today, while Mercedes were still substantially quicker in FP2 yesterday

The only other driver within a second of Vettel's top time, Valtteri Bottas was 'best of the rest' for Williams in fifth, ahead of Romain Grosjean in an impressive sixth. With Haas team-mate Esteban Gutierrez in eighth behind Daniil Kvyat, the American team is seemingly well placed for a stronger qualifying effort than it managed on its Australian debut.

Utilising a new 'ultra-short' nose on the FW38, Felipe Massa was ninth fastest in the second Williams, with Daniel Ricciardo rounding out the top ten.

Making big gains over FP2, Marcus Ericsson was a strong 11th for Sauber, ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the Renault and Jenson Button, the McLaren well adrift of his FP2 third.

On the other side of the garage, new team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne lost time with an oil leak but was able to get a super-soft time in during the closing stages, four hundredths from Button.

A relatively incident-free session, Jolyon Palmer nonetheless suffered a left-rear tyre delamination on his final lap in the Renault. The former GP2 champion was 20th fastest.



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