Jenson Button has been quickest in all three practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix

Jenson Button has staked his claim as the most likely candidate to end Red Bull Racing’s utter domination in qualifying this year, with the McLaren driver claiming a clean sweep by being the fastest driver in all three practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Button’s fastest lap – a 1:31.285 – was over half-a-second quicker than team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who finished the session second-fastest, while Sebastian Vettel was three-tenths further adrift, albeit seemingly posting his fastest time with a heavier fuel load.

Fernando Alonso finished the session fourth-fastest, with the top-ten completed by Mark Webber, a wild-driving Felipe Massa, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Vitaly Petrov and Adrian Sutil.

The midfield was a close-fought affair, with the Toro Rosso pairing of Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari just missing out on the top-ten; they were hotly pursued by Bruno Senna made a mess of his Renault Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Pérez and Paul di Resta.

Bruno Senna finished well down in 17th, having heavily crashed his Renault at Spoon early in the session, leaving his mechanics with plenty of work to do to get his battered R31 repaired in time for qualifying.

The Brazilian split the two Williams, who – unless Senna doesn’t take to the track in qualifying – will be duking it out for the embarrassing baton of being eliminated at the first hurdle in qualifying this afternoon. The Grove cars are miles off the pace, having lost plenty of track mileage in Friday practice.

It was a Noah’s Ark formation at the bottom of the timesheets, with the two Lotus entries predictably outperforming their Virgin and HRT rivals – Vitantonio Liuzzi had to park his HRT with mechanical gremlins midway through proceedings.



2011 Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 1:31.285 13
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 0.507 16
3. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.867 18
4. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 1.024 16
5. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 1.146 14
6. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 1.174 16
7. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.470 19
8. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.623 17
9. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 1.803 15
10. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.169 14
11. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.214 18
12. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.290 18
13. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.563 17
14. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.581 21
15. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.735 16
16. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 3.066 21
17. Bruno Senna BRZ Renault R31 + 4.134 5
18. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 4.396 18
19. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 5.072 16
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Renault T128 + 5.657 14
21. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 6.683 17
22. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 6.756 16
23. Daniel Ricciardo AUS HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 7.100 19
24. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 9.842 8

[Image via FOM and LAT]

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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.