• European Grand Prix - FP3

Button sets pace ahead of qualifying

ESPN Staff
June 23, 2012
Setup changes overnight put Jenson Button to the top of the timesheets © Press Association

Jenson Button showed signs of a return to form in final practice at the European Grand Prix, setting the fastest time of the weekend ahead of qualifying.

Button's time of 1:38.562 was 0.093s clear of his nearest competitor Romain Grosjean and something of a surprise after he struggled to find the right setup in his McLaren on Friday. The second Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen was also in contention with the third fastest time, 0.197s off Button's best. It was good news for Lotus, which did not feature at the top of timesheets on Friday and has struggled for one-lap pace at recent races.

The two Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta also look set for a decent weekend as they followed up their impressive Friday pace with more of the same on Saturday morning. Hulkenberg, who was second fastest in FP2, was 0.257s off Button and is in with a chance of his best qualifying performance of the year if he can maintain his form through to Saturday afternoon.

Sergio Perez overcame his Friday setup woes by setting the sixth fastest time ahead of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, who was 0.616s off his McLaren team-mate, was also struggling for pace on Friday but is probably capable of more as he came across traffic on his fastest lap.

Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado rounded out the top ten ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, with all three drivers just under 0.8s off Button. Fernando Alonso was 12th after running wide at turn 12 on his fast lap, just ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who also made a mistake on his fast lap. However, Vettel showed that his car is capable of more after the chequered flag as he set the fastest first and second sectors this weekend before returning to the pits.

Meanwhile, the second Red Bull of Mark Webber did not set a competitive time as the car was pulled to pieces to allow his mechanics to solve a brake issue. As a result he completed just four laps over the hour-long session.