The rest of the field seriously must be wondering what they have to do to get a break. Stuck in his pit garage for much of the final practice session with some apparent technical malady, Sebastian Vettel watches Mark Webber serenely cruise to go fastest, over a second quicker than anyone else. Having gone quickest in both Friday free practice sessions, could this be the weekend where Webber starts to make inroads on his team-mate, we all wonder?

Sebastian Vettel was fastest in final practice With just a few minutes left on the session, Vettel’s RB7 gurgles into life and the German sets out of the pit lane on soft tyres. He’ll have one out-lap to gauge the track conditions and then he’ll have just one hot lap available to him. No problem.

Just three minutes later, and Vettel is on top of the timesheets. And Mark Webber can only blink at the outrageousness of it all…

With daylight placed third after the two Red Bulls – now unbackable favourites to lock out the front row in qualifying – Michael Schumacher finished a confidence-boosting third-fastest, and even headed the timing screens for a little bit after making an early switch to soft tyres.

The McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finished fourth- and fifth-fastest respectively, while Nico Rosberg Mercedes made it a quartet of Mercedes-Benz power by going sixth-fastest.

Seventh-quickest and comfortably the fastest Ferrari-powered car was Kamui Kobayashi in the heavily updated Sauber, who finished four-tenths faster than eight-quickest man Vitaly Petrov in the Renault.

A fiery end to Nick Heidfeld's practice session The big incident of the session happened to Petrov’s team-mate Nick Heidfeld, whose R30 turned into something of a bonfire 25 minutes into the session. The German smartly pulled his car over to be attended to by the fire marshals, and the team has a huge job getting his car ready for qualifying after its right-rear corner suffered significant damage.

After being stripped of their rather high rear wings, the Ferraris were well off the pace – close to 2.5 seconds, in fact – with Fernando Alonso down in ninth and Felipe Massa two spots further behind, split by Rubens Barrichello. Alonso lost time at the end of the session when his car became stuck in sixth gear.

Behind the closely fought midfield battle between the Williams, Toro Rosso and Force India drivers, Team Lotus’ much-vaunted upgrades do not yet appear to have brought the team closer to the midfield, with Heikki Kovalainen 18th and Jarno Trulli 19th-fastest – both complained that their T128s felt loose at the rear end, despite having brand new ‘blown exhausts’ fitted for the first time.

The overall pace of the Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing cars suggests that we will be lucky to see a full complement of 24 cars for tomorrow’s race, with the quickest of the foursome (Timo Glock in 21st) lapping slower than the theoretical 107% threshold for this session. The MVR-02 has again been stripped of its new Turkey upgrades, which seemingly do not work.

2011 Spanish Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 1:21.707 6
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.084 17
3. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.350 16
4. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 1.361 13
5. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 1.507 14
6. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.690 18
7. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 1.962 17
8. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 2.336 18
9. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 2.563 11
10. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.611 18
11. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 2.615 17
12. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.622 19
13. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.692 17
14. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.828 16
15. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.988 18
16. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 3.015 14
17. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 3.516 19
18. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Renault T128 + 4.529 11
19. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 5.293 20
20. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 5.999 20
21. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 6.623 17
22. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 7.350 18
23. Nick Heidfeld DEU Renault R31 + 7.493 6
24. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 7.855 16

[Images via AUTOSPORT and BBC]

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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.