• European Grand Prix - FP3

Vettel on top ahead of qualifying

ESPNF1 Staff
June 25, 2011
Sebastian Vettel resumed his normal position at the top of the timing sheets after third practice © Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel led the way in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the European Grand Prix, holding a comfortable 0.420s cushion to his closest competitor Fernando Alonso.

Vettel's time of 1:37.258 was the fastest of the weekend and quicker than his pole position time from last year, with his Red Bull looking hooked up throughout the lap - including sectors one and two where he was losing time to his rivals on Friday. He looked as though he could have gone even quicker towards the end of the session, but came across Kamui Kobayashi's spinning Sauber at the final corner and had to back off.

Alonso clocked his best time several minutes earlier than Vettel, indicating that he could have been focusing on different priorities over the session. His lap looked a little more ragged than the Red Bull's and he lost two tenths to Vettel in the last sector alone. His Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa also looked as though he was pushing hard and he went third fastest, 0.182s off Alonso.

Mark Webber was fourth fastest but was held up by a Hispania in the final corner on his fastest lap. His time was 0.810s off the pace of Vettel and he completed 13 laps over the course of the session. Jenson Button was the fastest McLaren in fifth, but his car still looked a little unbalanced on the medium compound. He was 1.068s off Vettel on the soft tyres and that does not bode well for his qualifying session this afternoon.

Nico Rosberg was one of the first frontrunners to use the soft tyres in the hour long session and went straight to the top of timing sheets as a result. By the time the chequered flag fell, however, he had dropped back to sixth, 1.322s slower than Vettel but over 0.2s up on his Mercedes team-mate Michael Schumacher in eighth.

Splitting the two Mercedes was Lewis Hamilton, but his first hot lap on the soft tyres was ruined when he came across a very slow moving Schumacher coming out of turn 17. Whether he can get back into the fight with the Red Bulls and Ferraris in qualifying remains to be seen, but rather ominously he was losing 0.4s to Vettel in the final sector alone.

The two Renaults of Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld rounded out the top ten, with the Force Indias and Saubers looking strong among the midfield teams. At the very back of the field Narain Karthikeyan was outside 107% of the fastest time, but his Hispania team-mate Tonio Liuzzi showed that the car has reasonable pace as he split the two Virgins with a lap over a second faster.