• Malaysian Grand Prix - Free Practice Three

Webber leads the way ahead of qualifying

ESPNF1 Staff
April 3, 2010 « Michelin in F1 return talks | »
Mark Webber revealed the pace of the Red Bull to the rest of the pt lane © Getty Images

Mark Webber gave the first indication of what the Red Bull is capable of this weekend by setting the fastest time in final practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

He just edged out Lewis Hamilton for the top spot, as the McLaren driver again showed some impressive pace and was only 0.017 shy of Webber's time of 1:33.542. The pair were very closely matched in every sector but Hamilton appears to have traded some straight-line speed for extra grip in the corners overnight, as he was no longer the fastest through the speed trap.

Sebastian Vettel is still a strong contender for pole and was third fastest overall, within 0.050 of Webber and Hamilton. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest and two tenths down on Webber, but it is still a guessing game as to how much fuel the cars were carrying. Michael Schumacher put in a solid performance to finish fifth fastest, ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg for the first time this weekend and within half-a-second of the front-running pace. Jenson Button and Felipe Massa rounded out the top eight; neither capable of matching the times of their team-mates on soft tyres after both have had a tough weekend trying to find a set-up.

Rain threatened midway through the session, but despite a few drops evaporating almost as soon as they hit the track, it didn't emerge. It is still a big concern ahead of qualifying and the teams' radar images showed worrying weather systems in the area. Track temperature held at around 40C throughout the session but should drop ahead of qualifying. That will be comforting news for Hamilton whose McLaren has been working its rear tyres hard all weekend.

Rubens Barrichello's Williams was the only car outside of the big four to get within a second of Webber's time, and was marginally quicker than the usual midfield-pacesetter Robert Kubica. Behind the Renault the order is mixed, although the promise shown by Sauber on Friday appears to have fallen away as it found itself in limbo between the main block of runners and the new teams.

It was another successful session for Virgin, Lotus and HRT, as despite a piece of bodywork detaching itself from Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus, they all experienced good reliability. Timo Glock pipped Jarno Trulli to the fastest time of the six drivers, while HRT showed signs of improvement by getting within 6.3 seconds and 107% of Webber's best time.