World champion Sebastian Vettel, in the Red Bull RB9, topped the final free practice session of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend with a strong showing in the one hour session prior to all important qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton showing strong pace to clock the second best time.
Vettel left it late in the session to bang down his best time which was 0.133 up on the next best, and exactly the difference to Kimi Raikkonen’s best the previous day – in other words no one has gone faster around Sepang thus far this weekend than the champion. Mark Webber was fourth fastest.
Clearly the RB9 boasts great one lap pace, the question is: can they harness this performance and make the tyres last in the race and enable them to win?
After a relatively subdued opening day for Mercedes powered drivers, Hamilton had his race face on as each time he went out his lap times were at the top end of the screens.
Next up in third, and reveling in his return to the sport after a one year lay-off, was Adrian Sutil in the Force India. Teammate Paul di Resta was sixth.
Some set-up changes overnight to his Lotus E21 were apparently not for the better as Kimi Raikkonen – who lit up day one – ended fifth fastest 0.371 down on Vettel’s best and also down on his FP2 best lap time.
It’s been doom and gloom in the McLaren pit from the very first official practice in Australia, and perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Woking squad as Jenson Button ended the session seventh fastest in the MP4-28, the Woking squad’s best showing thus far this season. Sergio Perez was 12th.
Ferrari were working to their own programme where hot laps did not appear to be on their low key agenda. As a result Felipe Massa ended eighth best, with Fernando Alonso 10th.
Splitting the reds, in ninth, was Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.
FP3 had the air of a cat-and-mouse affair, with no one really showing their hand ahead of what is likely to be an intriguing qualifying where Red Bull should be the team to beat for that crucial top spot slot.
Free Practice 3 Results, Sepang – Saturday, 23 March 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.435||20|
|3||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.588||0.153||19|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:36.613||0.178||20|
|6||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.807||0.372||18|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:40.209||3.774||18|