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Lewis Hamilton followed up his pace-setting times on Friday to post a blistering one minute 22.292 seconds around Melbourne's Albert Park
Lewis Hamilton followed up his pace-setting times on Friday to post a blistering one minute 22.292 seconds around Melbourne's Albert Park (AFP Photo/PETER PARKS)

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton clocked the fastest time in the third and final free practice session ahead of qualifying for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix on Saturday.

The Briton, bidding for a sixth world title to move within one of Michael Schumacher's record seven, followed up his pace-setting times on Friday to post a blistering one minute 22.292 seconds around Melbourne's Albert Park.

Running on soft tyres, he was the last car out but immediately posted a fast lap and traded times with Ferrari arch-rival Sebastian Vettel.

The German four-time world champion, who has won in Australia for the past two years, finished second on 1:22.556, two-tenths of a second ahead of new teammate Charles Leclerc.

Vettel's time shaved almost a second off his efforts on Friday, seemingly confirming speculation that he had been sandbagging, or not giving it his all.

In a surprise, the Haas team of Roman Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen came fourth and fifth.

Red Bull's Pierre Gasly was sixth with his teammate Max Verstappen, who spent most of the session on medium tyres, ninth.

Hamilton's partner Valtteri Bottas came seventh with former world champion Kimi Raikkonen 17th in his Alfa Romeo after being sixth fastest on Friday.

Vettel had topped the timesheets on his opening lap after joining the one-hour session 20 minutes after it started.

Hamilton was the final car out and not to be outdone, he immediately went quicker.

With 12 minutes left, the German, on a fresh set of tyres, stormed round the track to again take the lead before Hamilton quickly lowered the benchmark even further.

The Williams team continued to struggle, with Robert Kubica and rookie George Russell bringing up the rear.

Kubica clipped the wall coming into the pitlane, leaving some debris on the track, while Russell said on the team radio early in the session: "Sliding all over the place."

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