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