• Japanese Grand Prix - FP3

Vettel leads Webber in final practice

ESPN Staff
October 6, 2012

Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull one-two in final practice for the Japanese Grand Prix as both McLarens failed to set a representative lap time on soft tyres ahead of qualifying.

The Red Bull RB8 looks well suited to the sweeping corners of Suzuka this weekend and Vettel set the fastest time on his final attempt to go ahead of team-mate Mark Webber. Vettel's best time, a 1:32.136, was 0.235s clear with Felipe Massa third fastest in the Ferrari, 0.668s off the pace.

The McLarens finished eighth and 13th after both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton encountered traffic on their soft tyre runs. Button was blocked by a slow-moving Michael Schumacher through 130R and Hamilton very nearly went into the back of Charles Pic as the Marussia loitered on the entrance to the final chicane. As a result the competitiveness of the McLaren is still unknown going into qualifying, although the MP4-27 looked like a challenger to the RB8 on Friday.

Michael Schumacher bounced back from his accident on Friday to finish the session fourth fastest ahead of the two Saubers and Romain Grosjean, in what looks likely to be a closely fought battle for the final places in Q3.

Paul di Resta finished ninth fastest as Force India again looked competitive, but his team-mate Nico Hulkenberg ended his session in the wall at the second Degner. Hulkenberg appeared to take too much speed through the corner on old tyres and lost the rear end. The front right suspension was badly damaged and his team will have a busy couple of hours to repair the car ahead of qualifying.

Outside the top ten, championship leader Fernando Alonso failed to set a decent lap and finished the session 1.048s off the pace. However, he was using a different specification of rear wing to Massa so should be further up the order in qualifying assuming he uses the same wing as his team-mate in qualifying.

Kimi Raikkonen was 12th fastest but appeared to be genuinely struggling. He complained of a heavy front end and a loose rear throughout the session and changes to the front anti-roll bar did not help the issue. After losing most of second practice due to a KERS problem, he will have to either take his compromised setup into qualifying or take a punt with a couple of changes and hope for the best.