Robert Kubica has continued his front-running pace during the Korean Grand Prix weekend – and thrown himself into the mix as a potential spoiler in the five-way championship fight – by topping the final practice session timesheets before this afternoon’s all-important qualifying session.
The Pole fractionally edged out Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber, with the top-four runners separated by less than one-tenth of a second as the session closed.
Overnight improvements to the circuit had perhaps gone some way to alleviate drivers’ concerns over track safety, but the 24-car field was still presented with an extremely slippery track surface ahead of the 60-minute practice session.
The top drivers held off any meaningful running and used the midfield runners – such as the Toro Rosso and Force India drivers – effectively as track sweepers to create a clean racing line along the dusty 5-kilometre circuit.
Not surprisingly, top honours in the first half-hour were disputed between the drivers in this quartet, until the big guns emerged in the final 30 minutes to post quicker times.
First to do so was Fernando Alonso, who posted a 1:40.795 in his Ferrari shod with hard tyres, until a six-lap run from Jenson Button saw the Spaniard eased into second place by just one-thousandth of a second.
Alonso responded to go faster, and then Lewis Hamilton almost immediately bettered it, with a significant improvement in lap time despite a wild off-track moment.
The final ten minutes saw everyone attempt a soft-tyre run and a true low-fuel qualifying simulation.
The traffic on the circuit was intense, and it wasn’t surprising to see a bit of fist-waving from some members of the field – with Fernando Alonso predictably being among the angry drivers – as they were held up by slower cars.
At the end of the session, Robert Kubica had posted the best lap time, just marginally quicker than the rest, while Sebastian Vettel was mired in 16th as he ran into problems in the closing minutes of play.
2010 Korean GP Practice 3 Session Times:
[Original image via LAT]