• Chinese Grand Prix - FP3

Hamilton tops final practice as McLaren dominates

ESPNF1 Staff
April 14, 2012
Lewis Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty after qualifying © Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of final practice ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix as McLaren reaffirmed its status as the team to beat.

Hamilton was the only man to dip under the 1m36s barrier as he set a time of 1:35.940 to beat his team-mate Jenson Button by 0.123s. The two McLarens were over 0.3s clear of the rest of the field, which will give Button encouragement that he can secure his first pole position for the team as Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher took third and fourth places respectively as the DRS system continued to make it competitive, with Mark Webber fifth in the updated Red Bull. By contrast Sebastian Vettel was only 9th in the old-spec car, though he only set a competitive time on medium tyres to end the session a second off the pace.

Between the two Red Bulls were Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi - all within a second of Hamilton's time. It was another difficult session for Ferrari as Fernando Alonso was only 15th quickest and, while Felipe Massa got within 0.4s of his team-mate, he would have dropped out in Q1 had it been qualifying as he ended the session in 18th.

The track remained challenging for the drivers, with numerous lock-ups and cars running wide, while Romain Grosjean had a small spin at turn 14. It was at that same hairpin that Paul di Resta had a nervy moment right at the end of the session, locking the rears under braking and nearly pitching the car in to the wall.