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

Sebastian Vettel has led another Red Bull Racing 1-2 in practice, this time reversing the order led by team-mate Mark Webber in yesterday’s second practice session.

Neither of the team’s main rivals from McLaren featured prominently in the timesheets in today’s final one-hour session, although both Jenson Button (sixth-fastest) and Lewis Hamilton (thirteenth) both had hot laps ruined by slower cars.

Conditions were again dry and fine when the circuit opened for business at 11:00AM local time, and Vettel had asserted himself with the fastest time by the session’s midpoint.

The German posted a quicker effort to knock Webber off top spot by just under a quarter of a second, while Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher wound up third- and fourth-fastest, just ahead of Sauber duo Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi.

Traffic posed significant problems during the course of the session, and both McLaren drivers were the victims when they came across slower cars wondering about the racing line. Button had to take avoiding action with Schumacher after he came across the German at 130R, while Hamilton did well not to hit Charles Pic, who’d all but parked his Marussia on the racing line at the Casio Triangle chicane.

Kimi Räikkönen again had a torrid session, winding up well down the timesheets and without more valuable track mileage. After being hit with KERS issues yesterday, the Finn was troubled today by a rear anti-roll bar problem.

Räikkönen’s problems paled in comparison to Nico Hülkenberg, who gave the Force India mechanics yet more work to when he crashed out of the session. The German lost the rear end of his car and skidded into the barriers, causing significant damage to his left-front suspension and left-rear quarter.

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

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:32.136   17
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:32.371 + 0.235 20
3. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:32.824 + 0.688 13
4. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:32.918 + 0.782 23
5. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:32.920 + 0.784 19
6. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:32.924 + 0.788 15
7. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:33.008 + 0.872 15
8. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:33.025 + 0.889 21
9. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:33.094 + 0.958 17
10. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:33.160 + 1.024 16
11. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:33.184 + 1.048 14
12. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:33.224 + 1.088 15
13. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:33.569 + 1.433 14
14. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:33.722 + 1.586 18
15. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:33.899 + 1.763 23
16. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:33.984 + 1.848 19
17. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:34.023 + 1.887 19
18. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:34.369 + 2.233 11
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:35.568 + 3.432 19
20. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:36.355 + 4.219 18
21. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:36.389 + 4.253 11
22. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:36.517 + 4.381 18
23. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:36.649 + 4.513 12
24. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:36.875 + 4.739 16

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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.