Sebastian Vettel has staked his claim for pole position at the Indian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel has staked his claim as a candidate to secure an umpteenth pole position of 2011 after clocking the fastest overall time in final practice for the Indian Grand Prix.

As the frontrunners all circulated the track in the closing minutes, it was Vettel who pipped Jenson Button for top honours, while their respective team-mates Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton were mere fractions behind.

The Red Bull cars had generally had the measure of the rest of the field in the early hard-tyre of this final practice session, suggesting that the RB7s have solid race pace ahead of tomorrow’s 60-lap race.

And when the qualifying simulations began late in the session, a host of drivers took turns at the top of the timesheets.

First off, Felipe Massa – whose flapping front wing is causing an increasing amount of interest in the field – beat Vettel’s early benchmark of 1:26.311, but this was quickly followed by Button, who clocked a 1:25.942.

The times continued to tumble, with Alonso (1:25.784) lowering the benchmark before Button’s next lap (1:25.191) eased him comfortably ahead.

But in typical fashion, Vettel’s last lap proved to be his best once again, and the German rocketed around the circuit with a 1:24.824 lap-time, the only sub 85-second lap-time of the weekend so far.

The Ferraris of Alonso and Massa (whose best time was posted with a more stable iteration of front wing) completed the top-five, while Paul di Resta claimed ‘best of the rest’ honours with the seventh-fastest time in his Force India, much to the delight of local fans.

With team-mate Adrian Sutil ninth-fastest, the pair sandwiches Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who had been comfortably inside the top-five when the cars were doing their hard-tyre runs early in the session. Team-mate Michael Schumacher wound up two spots behind in 11th, having also been very quick in the early stages of the session.



2011 Indian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 1:24.824 18
2. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 0.367 15
3. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.379 19
4. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 0.464 16
5. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 0.960 17
6. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 1.234 16
7. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 1.961 19
8. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 2.049 22
9. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.134 19
10. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.322 20
11. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 2.393 21
12. Bruno Senna BRZ Renault R31 + 2.411 20
13. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.438 19
14. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 2.456 18
15. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.563 20
16. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.925 21
17. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.969 17
18. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 3.051 20
19. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 4.531 21
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Renault T128 + 4.926 19
21. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 5.859 23
22. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 6.076 25
23. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 8.027 19
24. Daniel Ricciardo AUS HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 8.422 16

[Image via 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.