F1: Free Practice 3: Hamilton fastest in final practice

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton dominated final practice at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The champion was 0.696s seconds clear of his closest challenger, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg third.

Williams’s Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were next, then Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Lotus’s Romain Grosjean.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was only 13th, and McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button were 14th and 16th.

McLaren-Honda look likely to qualify at the back. They were 3.5 seconds off the pace and ahead only of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, who did just six laps because of engine problems.

The two Manor cars did not run, and are now unlikely to take any part in this weekend.

Hamilton was untouchable throughout the session, fastest from Rosberg in the first part on the medium tyre by 0.2secs and then in a different league when the teams switched to the soft tyres that will be used in qualifying.

Hamilton was 0.954secs faster than Rosberg on the soft tyre. The German did two laps within 0.1secs of each other.

Mercedes said Rosberg did not have any particular problem but did not hook his lap together.

The two Mercedes cars looked a handful – both Hamilton and Rosberg ran off the track during the session – but are clearly on a separate level from any other car.

Vettel’s pace underlines the belief that Ferrari are in a more competitive position this year after making a big step in the performance of their engine and improving the drivability of their car, too.

Raikkonen was 0.454secs slower than Vettel, a similar sort of margin to the advantage Fernando Alonso typically had over the Finn last season, which was Ferrari’s worst for 21 years.

Alonso has moved to McLaren but is missing this race after suffering concussion in an accident in pre-season testing last month.

His team admit they do not know when the Spaniard will return, or what caused his accident.

Read more at BBC Sport