Felipe Massa has gone quickest in the final practice session of the Spanish Grand Prix

Felipe Massa has set the benchmark pace in a closely-fought final practice session for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

With three different teams occupying the top-three spots on the timesheets and with the eleven fastest drivers covered by less than a second on the stopwatch, it is guaranteed to be a hotly-contested qualifying session this afternoon.

The Ferrari driver narrowly edged out Kimi Räikkönen’s Lotus by just six-thousandths of a second for top honours, while the pair was shadowed by Mark Webber’s Red Bull entry, which was just over a tenth slower.

As is typically the case in the final one-hour session, the field concentrated on making final tweaks to their Sundat race set-ups before concentrating on qualifying-style runs in the second thirty-minute phase.

Local hero Fernando Alonso – who finished sixth-quickest and just 0.35 seconds off Massa’s pace – was the fastest driver during this sequence ahead of both Lotus’ of Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean, while Massa was fourth-fastest ahead of both Red Bulls.

The switch to the Medium compound tyres saw Ferrari continue to occupy top spot on the timesheets, although it was now Massa who assumed top spot, while Alonso was bumped down to sixth behind Grosjean and Sebastian Vettel, who hit traffic on his final flying run.

The Force India pairing of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil were again comfortably inside the top-ten in seventh and eighth respectively, with di Resta managing to avoid a repeat of the tyre failure that prematurely ended his Saturday afternoon practice session.

Lewis Hamilton and Jean-Éric Vergne who completed the top ten for Mercedes and Toro Rosso, respectively.

Once again, the McLaren pairing of Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez were off the pace, with the MP4-28 showing little signs of improvement despite the wealth of upgrades being evaluated on the car. Pérez, who was just fourteenth-fastest, had the greater troubles, suffering minor damage to his front wing and a power steering failure.

Williams and Sauber were also worryingly down the order and look the most likely to suffer an early bath in this afternoon’s qualifying session among the usual suspects from Caterham and Marussia.

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

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:21.901   13
2. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:21.907 + 0.006 14
3. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:22.044 + 0.143 17
4. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:22.069 + 0.168 13
5. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:22.229 + 0.328 17
6. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:22.254 + 0.353 15
7. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:22.574 + 0.673 11
8. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:22.729 + 0.828 17
9. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:22.740 + 0.839 24
10. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:22.759 + 0.858 15
11. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:22.839 + 0.938 26
12. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:23.151 + 1.250 13
13. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:23.371 + 1.470 21
14. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:23.373 + 1.472 13
15. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:23.385 + 1.484 17
16. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:23.388 + 1.487 18
17. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:23.660 + 1.759 16
18. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:23.767 + 1.866 17
19. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:24.775 + 2.874 18
20. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:24.793 + 2.892 16
21. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:25.135 + 3.234 17
22. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:25.250 + 3.349 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.