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