Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the final practice session at the Malaysian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel topped the final practice session before qualifying today, with only five tenths separating the fastest nine drivers.

Vettel set a 1.36.435 which was just good enough to beat Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Hamilton set his time earlier in the session while Vettel along with team-mate Mark Webber practiced their long runs, languishing down the timesheet for most of the session. Webber would end up fourth, showing encouraging signs for Red Bull as the clouds once again hover for qualifying this afternoon.

Speaking of encouraging, Adrian Sutil and Force India once again showed they may put in a surprise result with the third quickest time. Sutil was second for the majority of the second before dropping down the field, and then jumped back up the time sheets to be only one tenth of Vettel’s fastest time. Paul di Resta also showed pace for the team, finishing in sixth, one thousandth of a second off yesterday’s fastest man Kimi Raikkonen.

Jenson Button finally put his McLaren in the top ten by finishing in seventh place. Encouragingly for the team he was only four tenths off the fastest time, and ahead of both Ferrari’s of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Massa again topped his team-mate in eighth, with Alonso in tenth.

Nico Rosberg couldn’t match it with Hamilton but still finished in ninth place, showing that Mercedes too are within striking distance of a good result this weekend. Like McLaren, Williams also showed some improved pace with Pastor Maldonado in eleventh and Valtteri Bottas in fifteenth.

Sergio Perez still can’t crack the ten as he set the twelfth-fastest time, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean who remains a long way off his team-mate. Esteban Gutierrez was nearly a full second slower than his fellow Sauber of Hulkenberg, while once again the Toro Rosso’s struggled to match the mid field, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo in 17th and 18th again.

In the back of the field, Charles Pic took the honours, beating out Jules Bianchi and his team-mate Giedo van der Garde. Max Chilton brought up the rear of the field again, four seconds off the pace.

It looks like there could be another wet qualifying session with rain forecast and clouds hovering over Sepang, with a wide variety of teams showing promising pace as the shoot out for pole is only hours away.

2013 Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:36.435   20
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:36.568 + 0.133 17
3. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:36.588 + 0.153 19
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:36.613 + 0.178 20
5. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:36.806 + 0.371 19
6. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:36.807 + 0.372 18
7. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:36.822 + 0.387 16
8. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:36.946 + 0.511 14
9. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:36.949 + 0.514 25
10. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:37.302 + 0.867 14
11. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:37.359 + 0.924 11
12. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:37.538 + 1.103 12
13. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:37.685 + 1.250 23
14. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:37.690 + 1.255 14
15. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:37.936 + 1.501 16
16. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:38.294 + 1.859 17
17. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:38.376 + 1.941 16
18. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:38.425 + 1.990 15
19. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:38.995 + 2.560 18
20. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:39.717 + 3.282 21
21. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:40.209 + 3.774 18
22. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:40.495 + 4.060 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.