Sebastian Vettel has thrown his and Red Bull’s hat into the ring as a potential race-winner, posting his session-leading fastest time Sebastian Vettelat the end of the final practice session before qualifying for the European Grand Prix.

The German’s fastest time – a 1:38.052 – was set on a low-fuel soft-tyre shod run, where the ‘F-duct’ equipped RB6 rocketed around the Valencia circuit to snatch top slot from Robert Kubica, with the Renault driver looking very rapid in his heavily modified car.

The final ten minutes of the session were manic, as many drivers ran on fumes and soft tyres to simulate qualifying runs, ahead of one of the most crucial 60-minute knock-out sessions of the championship season.

With there never having been a passing move worthy of the name at Valencia, a good qualifying result will be the first step in having a possible shot at race victory for tomorrow’s race.

To see the top eighteen runners covered by just over 1.6 seconds will give some indication that we could see a few surprises in this afternoon’s qualifying session, and there could be a few high-profile casualties not making it into the top-ten shoot-out for pole position.

Indeed, the timing sheets for this session mirror what has turned out to be a surprisingly competitive and closely fought weekend so far.

For instance, both McLarens barely scraped into the top-ten, and Michael Schumacher was a lowly 15th overall.

Those who managed to weave together a quick lap included the likes of Rubens Barrichello, who vaulted to sixth on the timing boards with his last-gasp effort.

2010 European GP Practice 3 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault 1:38.052 14
2. Robert Kubica POL Renault + 0.102 17
3. Mark Webber AU Red Bull Renault + 0.261 13
4. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes + 0.448 17
5. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari + 0.461 18
6. Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams Cosworth + 0.571 15
7. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Force India Mercedes + 0.624 17
8. Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari + 0.634 16
9. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes + 0.717 16
10. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes + 0.764 15
11. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP + 0.770 15
12. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari + 0.998 16
13. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Williams Cosworth + 1.053 15
14. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault + 1.061 16
15. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP + 1.170 14
16. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari + 1.340 18
17. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari + 1.475 16
18. Pedro de la Rosa ESP Sauber Ferrari + 1.647 16
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus Cosworth + 3.251 19
20. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Cosworth + 3.376 20
21. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth + 3.903 17
22. Lucas di Grassi BRA Virgin Racing Cosworth + 4.302 18
23. Bruno Senna BRA HRT Cosworth + 4.559 18
24. Karun Chandhok IND_thumb[1] HRT Cosworth + 4.570 19

[Original image via The Cahier Archive]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.