Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel
confirmed the suspicion that Red Bull
Racing would again be a factor in the Chinese Grand Prix
by breaking Mercedes' hold on the top of the timesheets in third practice.
The Australian ended the hour-long session by narrowly missing out on the fastest lap of the weekend, clocking 1min 35.323secs to knock McLaren's Lewis Hamilton
out of the top spot he had held since Friday afternoon. Webber eventually wound up a couple of tenths clear of the field, with Hamilton doing enough to keep Vettel at bay.
Mercedes had dominated the two sessions on Friday, with each McLaren
driver taking a turn in P1 and Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg
and Michael Schumacher ensconced in second and fourth respectively. Come Saturday, McLaren
maintained its top four status, with Button on the heels of Vettel, while Rosberg and Schumacher slipped back behind not just the Red Bulls, but also Fernando Alonso's Ferrari
to end the day in sixth and seventh.
Behind Schumacher, Robert Kubica, Felipe Massa
and Kamui Kobayashi
rounded out the top ten, while Toro Rosso
and Force India
battled over the spots just behind.
Once again, the red flag made an appearance, this time after Renault
rookie Vitaly Petrov speared off at the final corner, having run wide onto the artificial grass beyond the kerbs. The Russian subsequently missed the final quarter of an hour, and had to make do with 15th position.
That was still enough to keep him ahead of Sauber's Pedro de la Rosa
and the two Williams
drivers, with Rubens Barrichello
16th after a disappointing start to the team's F-duct experiment. A handful of exploratory runs early in the hour failed to provide the desired results, and the Brazilian was quickly switched back to a more conventional set-up for the rest of the weekend.
Timo Glock restored Virgin to the front of the new teams, as the British team mixed it with Lotus. Glock and team-mate Lucas di Grassi
alternated with Heikki Kovalainen
and Jarno Trulli, while HRT brought up the rear. There was further frustration for the latter's Karun Chandhok too, as the team was punished for breaking a gearbox seal without the permission of race officials. The five-place grid penalty should not make too much difference to the Indian's qualifying performance, however.