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Sebastian Vettel turned in the fastest time in a sodden third free practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix as the teams and drivers prepare for what is likely to be a similarly damp qualifying session later today.

Though heavy rain brought about by earlier storms had largely lessened to light but persistent showers by the time FP3 got underway, the track remained consistently wet throughout, the drivers starting out on wet tyres before trialling intermediate rubber in the closing stages.

Even so, with lap times more than 20secs down on what drivers were managing in the dry yesterday, there were several off track moments as they attempted to find the limits.

Ferrari's Vettel was amongst those to endure a moment off course, but recovered to set the quickest time of 1min 57.351secs.

All drivers ventured onto track, but only 14 would complete a lap time, Valtteri Bottas following Vettel in second, ahead of Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz and Esteban Gutierrez, the Haas driver getting some much needed mileage in having lost almost his entire Friday due to technical issues.

Amongst those not to set a time, neither Lewis Hamilton nor Nico Rosberg completed a full lap, along with McLaren's Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso or Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo.

Qualifying, which will see a return to the knockout format of 2015 this afternoon, is also expected to be run in rainy conditions.