All teams are running with race-mod setup in first 30 minutes of FP3, and aces exposed single-lap strength after Romain Grosjean’s red flag with Ferrari and Mercedes trading blows at the front only for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to pip them all.
The young sensation, who secured his eighth career podium in China last weekend, finished .110 ahead of Lewis Hamilton – although the three-time F1 champion may have been holding back some speed for qualifying.
Friday pace-setter Sebastian Vettel was .556 behind Verstappen in third. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was fourth ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
Later Saturday, Hamilton was looking for his third straight pole position of the season after going quickest in Australia and China.
He is level at the top of the championship standings with Vettel. In an exciting start to the season, both have one win and one second-place finish each, with Vettel winning in Melbourne and Hamilton taking the checkered flag in Shanghai.
Although not as hot as Friday, drivers still had to deal with track temperatures of 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit) on the sweltering hot circuit located in the desert.
The session was briefly halted some 20 minutes from the end after Haas driver Romain Grosjean spun across the track and into the barriers, damaging his car’s front wing. After quick repairs, the Frenchman had the car back on track for the final few minutes.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth ahead of Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo – who only put in one timed run, Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat.