Sebastian Vettel claimed top spot on the timesheets by more than half a second

Barring disaster for him or a miraculous performance from someone else, it seems almost certain that Sebastian Vettel will secure his fifth pole position of the season, having soundly thrashed the rest of the field in the final free practice session for the Korean Grand Prix.

The German was fastest on both tyre compounds in today’s one-hour session, with a switch to a qualifying-style run on Pirelli’s super-soft tyres giving him top place on the timesheets to the tune of over half a second to the next quickest driver, Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button ended the session third-quickest, while the Lotus entries of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top five as both got to grips with the team’s new coandă-style exhausts.

Championship leader Fernando Alonso finished the session sixth-fastest – two spots ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa – but it will be worrying to the Maranello camp that the Spaniard was a full second off Vettel’s leading pace.

The Ferrari duo sandwiched Mark Webber on the timesheets, with the Australian unable to improve his position in the final ten minutes’ running after he was sidelined with a technical gremlin that required the attention of the team’s mechanics, along with representatives of the outfit’s engine supplier, Renault.

Vettel’s outstanding pace aside, the afternoon’s individual qualifying phases look set to be a fascinating affair in the midfield, which saw just over a second covering positions five to eighteen.

Interestingly, both Mercedes runners were further down the order than they would have liked, with Nico Rosberg twelfth-fastest, one spot better than team-mate Michael Schumacher.

As usual, the Caterham, Marussia and HRT entrants made it a Noah’s Ark formation at the bottom of the timing screens, but all three outfits saw their less-experienced drivers trump their more established partners in the battle for intra-team bragging rights at the end of the session.

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

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:37.642   17
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:38.169 + 0.527 12
3. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:38.511 + 0.869 13
4. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:38.582 + 0.940 16
5. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:38.666 + 1.024 18
6. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:38.705 + 1.063 12
7. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:38.766 + 1.124 7
8. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:38.791 + 1.149 13
9. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:38.833 + 1.191 16
10. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:38.932 + 1.290 17
11. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:38.954 + 1.312 17
12. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:39.010 + 1.368 20
13. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:39.150 + 1.508 18
14. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:39.156 + 1.514 18
15. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:39.345 + 1.703 14
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:39.448 + 1.806 17
17. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:39.537 + 1.895 18
18. Bruno Senna BRA Williams Renault FW34 1:39.706 + 2.064 18
19. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:41.114 + 3.472 14
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Caterham Renault CT01 1:41.437 + 3.795 19
21. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:41.684 + 4.042 16
22. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:42.845 + 4.420 15
23. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:42.062 + 5.203 15
24. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:42.882 + 5.240 14

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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.