Qualifying preview: Red Bull in trouble

Mercedes continued to lead the way in free practice three, while local favourite Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull Racing team again struck trouble.

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the session — a 1 minutes 27.867 seconds — but it was Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari that was second best, albeit seven-tenths of a second behind.

The scarlet car separated Nico Rosberg in third from his teammate, with the second Mercedes driver one second down on Hamilton.

Red Bull stole the show for all the wrong reasons in the final practice session of the event, again with engine troubles.

Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat managed just 16 laps between them, and Ricciardo’s best was almost 3.5 seconds off the pace.

Christian Horner confirmed at the beginning of the practice session that the internal combustion unit that necessitated an engine change during free practice two yesterday is not salvageable and will therefore count towards Ricciardo’s maximum of four allocated engines for the season.

The problems didn’t seem to improve with the installation of the new engine on Saturday, however, with Ricciardo again complaining about poor drivability for much of the session.

His problems were underscored when his RB11 stopped at the exit of the pit lane, requiring track marshals wheeled the car back to its garage.

Daniil Kvyat fared worse: his Renault engine developed an internal fire and was rules out of the session after just six laps.

McLaren joined Red Bull Racing at the bottom of the practice pile, with both drivers expected to qualify last later this evening.

Manor was unable to take part in the session and is now extremely unlikely to enter qualifying and therefore the race, meaning the Australian Grand Prix will likely be contested between 18 drivers.