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Austrian Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel fastest in final practice, Lewis Hamilton handed five-place grid penalty

Spielberg: Ferrari got a boost as Sebastian Vettel posted the fastest time ahead of both Mercedes cars in the third and final practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix ahead of qualifying later on Saturday.

Vettel finished 0.269 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who had topped both of Friday's practice sessions, and .423 ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen had the fourth quickest time, but spent less time on track after his team worked on his Ferrari at the start of practice.

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel prepares for the third practice session of the Formula One Austria Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, on July 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

Sebastian Vettel prepares for the third practice session of the Austria Grand Prix. AFP

Nearing the end of the session, Hamilton went off the track with some smoke pouring out the side of his car. Toto Wolff, the team's head of motorsport, watched glum-faced from the team's motorhome as the car was wheeled back to the garage.

The team said it was a brake disk failure, which will be resolved in time for qualifying.

Hamilton and Vettel have won three races each so far, and Vettel leads Hamilton in a close title race by 14 points after eight races.

Ferrari, which is in a close scrap with Mercedes for the constructors' championship, also got another boost.

Hamilton, who won last year's race, was handed a five-place grid penalty for an unauthorized gearbox change. It means that, even if he took pole later on Saturday he would start from sixth on the grid.

Teams must use the same gearbox for six straight races but Hamilton's Mercedes team made the change before reaching that requirement. The change was made Tuesday and came after the last race in Azerbaijan. Mercedes had already changed it once before that.

Hamilton has taken pole for the last two years on the Spielberg track, winning the race last year.

Published Date: Jul 08, 2017 18:25 PM | Updated Date: Jul 08, 2017 18:25 PM

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