Sebastian Vettel has cast himself as a favourite to take pole position in qualifying, with the German posting the fastest lap time in the third and final practice session for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
With temperatures considerably hotter than yesterday, drivers battled the energy-sapping 43-degree heat and the resultant tyre degradation this gave as they hustled their way around the long Yas Marina circuit to prepare for this evening’s all-important qualifying session.
The lap times only improved on the best set in yesterday’s practice sessions when the drivers switched to low-fuel, soft-tyre runs late in the session to simulate some qualifying hot laps.
Crucially for Vettel, he was quickest in the session during this period and the preceding high-fuel, hard-tyre stints, which bodes well for qualifying later today.
Team-mate Mark Webber was never more than a few tenths behind, and a late hot lap improved him to just over 0.1 seconds slower than the German, who has all but hinted that he would play a supporting role to Webber if his own championship prospects were looking dimmer than the Australian’s.
The McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button has generally looked to be the second-quickest all weekend, although a late effort from Fernando Alonso saw the Ferrari driver split the duo, who rounded out the top five positions on the timing screens.
Vitaly Petrov again impressed as the sixth-quickest driver in the session – boding well for qualifying later today – and Michael Schumacher also looked decent in seventh, despite sustaining some front wing damage during the one-hour session.
His Mercedes GP team-mate Nico Rosberg was seventh-fastest, ahead of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld who rounded out the top ten.
Felipe Massa finished only 12th-fastest at the end of the session.
2010 Abu Dhabi GP Practice 3 Session Times:
[Original image via Sutton Images]