It looks like being an all Red Bull Racing shootout for pole position in this afternoon’s qualifying session for the United States Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel once again led a lockout of the top two positions in final practice at the Circuit of the Americas, edging out teammate Mark Webber to top spot by two-tenths of a second.
Mirroring the form shown in Friday’s second practice session, Vettel was the quickest in the field during the initial Hard-compound tyre running, a full four-tenths of a second clear of the second-fastest man, Romain Grosjean in the Lotus.
The German switched to the Medium ‘option’ compound in the final minutes of the session, performing a single qualifying-style run that moved him into top spot. He posted even quicker sector times on the following lap, but aborted the time under instruction from his race engineer, Guillaume ‘Rocky’ Rocquelin.
Webber moved into second-fastest with a time 0.203s slower than his teammate, while Lewis Hamiton completed the top-three – evidently much more comfortable in his new Mercedes chassis, following a switch after his uncompetitive Abu Dhabi Grand Prix showing.
Sauber’s ever-impressive Nico Hülkenberg claimed the fastest Ferrari-powered honours with a solid fourth-fastest effort, while Grosjean was fifth-quickest in the Lotus.
The McLarens showed rather improved pace – Jenson Button and Sergio Pérez were sixth and eighth-fastest respectively, sandwiching Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes – but the same could not be said of the Ferraris.
Fernando Alonso was eleventh-quickest, over a second adrift of Vettel’s best time, while Felipe Massa was six-tenths slower in 17th place on the timesheets. Heikki Kovalainen was another driver to have a quieter session, finishing up 13th quickest in his first weekend in Lotus colours.
The red cars’ lack of pace allowed others to shine, with Valtteri Bottas proving a surprise performer with the ninth-fastest time in his Williams; he beat Adrian Sutil’s Force India by one-thousandth of a second.
The tail end of the field saw the Caterhams once again comfortably ahead of fellow backmarkers Marussia, with Charles Pic leading the charge ahead of teammate Giedo van der Garde.
No doubt to the Marussia team’s great relief, major set-up changes saw both Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton run much closer to the leading pace after a disastrous second practice session. Both drivers unlocked around six seconds of lap time, although they were still over four seconds adrift of Vettel’s leading pace.
2013 United States Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:36.733||14|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:36.936||+ 0.203||20|
|3.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:37.064||+ 0.331||22|
|4.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:37.272||+ 0.539||20|
|5.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:37.345||+ 0.612||20|
|6.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:37.534||+ 0.801||18|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:37.578||+ 0.845||24|
|8.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:37.583||+ 0.850||19|
|9.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:37.747||+ 1.014||17|
|10.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:37.748||+ 1.015||21|
|11.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:37.763||+ 1.030||16|
|12.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:37.774||+ 1.041||18|
|13.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:37.879||+ 1.146||21|
|14.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:38.022||+ 1.289||16|
|15.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:38.109||+ 1.376||23|
|16.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:38.275||+ 1.542||22|
|17.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:38.408||+ 1.675||17|
|18.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:38.636||+ 1.903||21|
|19.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:39.578||+ 2.845||19|
|20.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:40.056||+ 3.323||21|
|21.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:40.825||+ 4.092||21|
|22.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:41.293||+ 4.560||18|