Practice 3: Vettel again as Red Bull dominate

Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing drives during practice for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya on May 7, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain.

Sebastian Vettel ended the final free parctice session in Barcelona fastest of all

May.8 (YF1) Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing clearly mean business in Barcelona as the young German once again topped the timing sheets in the final free practice session of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya. He was 0.704 seconds faster than his closest rival, team mate, Mark Webber. In Formula 1 terms that’s a massive gap.

Webber hogged the top slot of the timing screens for most of the session until about five minutes on the clock when Vettel blitzed everyone to claim the fastest lap, trumpeting out a blatant message to his rivals a couple of hours before the all important qualifying session.

Times were a little slower than the afternoon practice the previous day as rain came down overnight which made the track a little “greener” and subsequently a tad slower.

Next best, behind the fizzy drinks pair, were the McLaren duo with Lewis Hamilton third quickest ahead of Jenson Button who all but threw in the towel with his ” red Bulls are unbeatable”” comments on Friday.

Michael Schumacher was again showing signs of a “rebirth” of sorts, clocking the fifth fastest time which was again faster than team mate Nico Rosberg, seventh quickest. A barrage of modifications to the MGP W01 chassis, made to suit Schumi, has seen the roles reversed… at least for now.

Splitting the two Silver Arrows was Felipe Massa, who for the first time during the weekend had the upper hand on local hero team mate Fernando Alonso. Whispers of sand-bagging by the Maranello boys prevailed on Friday, if this is true then Alonso particularly deserves an Oscar for the show he was giving in the final free practice session. Spain’s darling was eighth fastest and by the look of things aggressive and determined.

Robert Kubica and Renault were again the best of the rest (the non “big four” teams) with the ninth best time. Rookie team mate Vitaly Petrov ended his session in the wall, after losing control of the R30. The result was some pretty serious damage which would have the Renault crew hard at work considering the qualifying session would follow two hours later. In the Russian’s defence, the violent veering of the Renault under breaking appeared to be caused by some sort of breakage. Watch this space. His early best time was good for 18th best.

The incident coupled to an off by Kamui Kobayashi, who beached his Sauber at the exact same time as Petrov’s incident, brought out the red flag for about ten minutes 20 minutes into the session. Kobayashi was top of the timing sheets when he went off and ended the session 12th quickest with 11 laps in the bag. His team mate Pedro de la Rosa, on home soil, completed 20 laps but could only manage 13th best time.

Adrian Sutil rounded up the top ten with his Force India, but the German coasted to a halt in the final minutes of the session. Team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi was down in 17th.

Sebastien Buemi was best of the Toro Rosso duo with 11th best time, with Jaime Alguersuari 15th.

Nico Hulkenberg emerged from a torrid opening day to end the final practice session 14th best, quickest of the Cosworth runners and faster than team mate Rubens Barrichello for the first time this weekend. The Brazilian was 16th on the timing sheets.

The pecking order among the new teams was as has become customary: Lotus, Virgin Racing and Hispania racing. Jarno Trulli faster than Heikki Kovalainen, Timo Glock getting the better of Lucas di Grassi, Karun Chandhok quicker than Bruno Senna; the latter only managed 6 laps  in the final session.

After the final session it is blatantly apparent that Red Bull Racing are the team to beat, if anything they have taken a step forward with their updates. McLaren appear to be the next best package with Mercedes GP, particularly Schumi, snapping at their heels. Jury is out on Ferrari but on the evidence of the final session they might be in a spot of bother keeping their main rivals in check.

Qualifying should reveal all as pole position in Barcelona almost guarantees victory on Sunday. Having said that, this season has been such that even Nostradamus would struggle with predictions.

Free Practice 3 – Friday, 8 May 2010

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 5 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:20.528 15
2 6 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:21.232 0.704 11
3 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.348 0.820 14
4 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.376 0.848 16
5 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:21.583 1.055 14
6 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:21.749 1.221 16
7 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:22.013 1.485 14
8 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:22.091 1.563 15
9 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1:22.242 1.714 20
10 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:22.377 1.849 12
11 16 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:22.400 1.872 18
12 23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:22.412 1.884 11
13 22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari 1:22.527 1.999 20
14 10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:22.634 2.106 16
15 17 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 1:22.926 2.398 20
16 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:22.953 2.425 16
17 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:23.597 3.069 12
18 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:23.896 3.368 5
19 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.610 4.082 14
20 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:24.745 4.217 11
21 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.722 5.194 15
22 25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:25.855 5.327 14
23 20 Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth 1:26.611 6.083 18
24 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:30.246 9.718 6