Rapid Vettel tops final Melbourne practice - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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Rapid Vettel tops final Melbourne practice

Rapid Vettel tops final Melbourne practice

Rapid Vettel tops final Melbourne practice
26 March 2011
2011 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix: Saturday third free practice results

Red Bull Racing returned to the top in final practice for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. At an overcast but dry Albert Park on Saturday afternoon, World Champion Sebastian Vettel was a full second quicker than third-placed Lewis Hamilton, with leading Ferrari Fernando Alonso in sixth place.

Will Hispania Racing be able to make the grid in Qualifying?

Today’s final hour of practice time was the last for the 12 teams prior to qualifying later today, with rain failing to affect proceedings despite being a threat throughout. Ambient and track temperatures reached respective highs of 18 and 22°C (64 and 72°F).

The session began smoothly, as drivers completed their single installations laps with the exception of Schumacher’s Mercedes, which toured twice. However, the Hispania of Narain Karthikeyan did not join the action until the final ten minutes; the Indian also managed the team’s first flying lap of the year, albeit 17 seconds off the pace.

Both HRT and Marussia Virgin are under threat of non-qualifying later today, although their saving grace could come in the form of front-runners saving their best tyres and using only the Hard compound in Q1. The tail-ending fears come as the 107 percent rule returns to the sport for the first time since 2002.

Russian Vitaly Petrov was in the top five for Renault

Once again, numerous drivers were caught out by the slippery nature of the Albert Park street venue, with 2009 Champion Jenson Button surviving a particularly lurid moment after locking up, driving through the gravel trap and just missing the barriers at Turn 3.

Also suffering a problem was Renault’s Nick Heidfeld, who lost his left turning vane when riding the kerbs of the final corner. Another man to see a part jettisoned was Felipe Massa, whose t-bar camera came loose and forced a pit-stop, wrecking a qualifying simulation on Soft tyres in the progress; the Ferrari was able to rush back onto track in the final minutes due to a special exemption from Race Director Charlie Whiting.

After a promising performance 24 hours earlier, Williams suffered a disastrous final practice period. No sooner had newcomer Pastor Maldonado crashed at Turn 6, than team-mate Rubens Barrichello was stranded in the pit lane which what the Grove team has described to GPUpdate.net as a gearbox leak.

Still experimenting with the returning KERS were a pair of Germans, as Nico Rosberg was able to use only 70 percent of his electrical unit at Mercedes and Force India feared a problem for Adrian Sutil, which eventually proved to be a false alarm.

Behind Red Bull and McLaren on the timesheets, the leading Renault of Vitaly Petrov made the top five as Alonso plus the pair of Sauber and Mercedes cars rounded out the leading ten.

Pos. Driver Team Time Laps
1. S. Vettel Red Bull 01:24.507 15
2. M. Webber Red Bull 01:25.364 14
3. L. Hamilton McLaren 01:25.553 15
4. J. Button McLaren 01:25.567 16
5. V. Petrov Renault 01:25.906 18
6. F. Alonso Ferrari 01:26.121 16
7. K. Kobayashi Sauber 01:26.417 17
8. N. Rosberg Mercedes Grand Prix 01:26.520 17
9. N. Heidfeld Renault 01:26.746 17
10. M. Schumacher Mercedes Grand Prix 01:26.856 15
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