Lewis Hamilton led a McLaren 1-2 in final practice for the Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton can count himself as a strong contender to claim a ‘moral’ pole position in this afternoon’s qualifying session, with the 2008 champion – who will lose five grid spots for changing his gearbox – leading Jenson Button to a McLaren 1-2 in final practice for the Chinese Grand Prix.

The weather was appreciably warmer than yesterday’s chilly, overcast conditions, and the cars from Woking proved dominant in front of a still-thin crowd at the Shanghai International Circuit.

The action really got going when the drivers made their customary switch to Pirelli’s softer tyre compound to perform some qualifying simulations, with the Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher heading the timesheets until Hamilton and Button emerged for their final runs.

Mark Webber finished the session fifth-quickest in his Red Bull RB8, while team-mate Sebastian Vettel finished up ninth-quickest – the German’s fastest time came on the harder rubber while he lost some track time having a new torsion bar fitted in his rear suspension.

Pastor Maldonado was a somewhat surprising sixth-fastest in his Williams, ahead of the Saubers of Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi, who were the fastest drivers through the speed trap in this session.

An oversteering Kimi Räikkönen headed a Lotus and Force India train on the timing screens, and he was followed by Nico Hülkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Paul di Resta, who had a wild lock-up under braking at the hairpin on his last flying lap.

Romain Grosjean was 12th-quickest in his LotusBruno Senna was 14th-fastest in the sister Williams, while Fernando Alonso was only 15th-fastest, no doubt praying that Ferrari can muster up some more wet weather, which will be the only way the F2012 proves competitive here. Team-mate Felipe Massa finished a lowly 18th-quickest, with the Ferraris sandwiching the two Toro Rosso drivers.

The last six places showed their traditional Noah’s Ark formation of the two Caterhams (Vitaly Petrov ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, for a change), followed by the two Marussia entries and the two HRTs, which lapped comfortably within the theoretical 107% cut-off time.

Qualifying gets underway at 2:00pm local time, and based on the form seen across the three sessions, it would be a surprise to see anything other than a McLaren on pole for tomorrow’s 56-lap race.


2012 Chinese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:35.940   13
2. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:36.063 + 0.123 12
3. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:36.389 + 0.449 16
4. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:36.512 + 0.572 17
5. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:36.635 + 0.695 16
6. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:36.765 + 0.825 17
7. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:36.781 + 0.841 19
8. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:36.880 + 0.940 17
9. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:37.039 + 1.099 15
10. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:37.061 + 1.121 17
11. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:37.237 + 1.297 16
12. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:37.274 + 1.334 16
13. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:37.288 + 1.348 16
14. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:37.425 + 1.485 14
15. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:37.465 + 1.525 12
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:37.493 + 1.553 13
17. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:37.628 + 1.688 14
18. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:37.831 + 1.891 14
19. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:38.701 + 2.761 19
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:39.198 + 3.258 19
21. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:39.796 + 3.856 18
22. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:40.048 + 4.108 17
23. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:41.263 + 5.323 14
24. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:41.499 + 5.559 18

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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.

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