• Malaysian Grand Prix - FP3

Vettel on top in close final practice

ESPN Staff
March 23, 2013
© Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel set the pace in a tight final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton second fastest and Adrian Sutil third.

Vettel clocked a 1:36.435 to finish the session 0.133s clear of Hamilton, who set his time earlier in the hour. Sutil again showed Force India's impressive pace with the third fastest time, just 0.153s off Vettel and ahead of Mark Webber, who was a close fourth in the second Red Bull.

Friday's pace setter Kimi Raikkonen was fifth fastest, 0.371s off Vettel's pace, but just 0.001s ahead of Paul di Resta in the second Force India. Jenson Button showed improved form in the McLaren to go seventh fastest ahead of Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. However, with 0.5s separating the top eight, it looks likely to be an incredibly close qualifying session in which any mistakes will be punished by lowly grid positions.

Hamilton also showed how delicate the tyres are in these conditions as he locked a front tyre towards the end of the session and flatspotted the rubber down to the canvas. A chunk of the tyre flew off on the back straight and caused damage to his front wing, further underlining the perils of making a mistake under braking this weekend.

Outside the top ten, Pastor Maldonado showed signs of a Williams recovery in 11th place, just 0.057s off Alonso's pace, while Sergio Perez in the McLaren and Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber were 12th and 13th. Romain Grosjean had another disappointing session down in 14th, but had his fast lap ruined by a slow-moving Caterham. Up to that point his sector times had looked promising, but it remains to be seen whether he has overcome the issues he has struggled with so far this year.

Toro Rosso once again provided a buffer between the midfield and the backmarkers, but Caterham's Charles Pic finished the session just 0.5s off Daniel Ricciardo, suggesting the gap at the back of the field is closing.