Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber issued another warning to the rest of the Formula One field during final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, but even the Australian may have reason to fear his team-mate after the massive seven-tenths gap between them.
RBR reprised its dominance of the timesheets from Friday afternoon, but Vettel appeared to be comfortably ahead of the rest as he clocked a 1min 20.528secs best lap. Although slower than he managed on the opening day, the Circuit de Catalunya had been washed by overnight rain and took a while to 'rubber in' again.
After a quiet start to the session, the action was again interrupted by a red flag before the session really got into full swing, and had a smattering of pacesetters before the Red Bull duo got up to speed. Webber took a brief stint at the top of the times before Vettel exerted his authority and, when the chequered flag fell at the end of the hour, the German was fully 0.704secs clear, suggesting that he will be heading for a potential fourth pole in qualifying.
After holding the position in both Friday sessions, Michael Schumacher was finally ousted from third spot as Lewis Hamilton headed McLaren team-mate Jenson Button in pursuit of the Red Bulls. The Britons were again well-matched but eight-tenths shy of the ultimate pace.
Schumacher, meanwhile, maintained his strong start to the weekend, claiming fifth spot for Mercedes. The German was again ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg, as he has been in each session in Barcelona, but was the first man not to get to within a second of Vettel. Schumacher was comfortably ahead of former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa as the reworked Silver Arrows proved to be well-matched with the scarlet F10. Rosberg was similarly just ahead of Fernando Alonso, while Renault's Robert Kubica and Force India's Adrian Sutil rounded out the top ten.
The German, however, was among those not to finish the session, pulling his car off with a handful of minutes to run. His demise, however, was nothing like that of Kubica's Renault team-mate Vitaly Petrov and, to a lesser extent, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, who both went off at turn four early on. Both were victims of standing water that remained on the kerbs approaching the turn but, while Kobayashi merely bounced across the gravel trap and was able to return to the fray after the team dusted him down, Petrov comprehensively rearranged his R30 by removing front and rear wings plus various wheels. Both drivers had clocked times, however, with Kobayashi improving on his final run to sit twelfth, and Petrov taking 18th based on his five laps before the accident.
Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna again brought up the rear for the HRT, the Brazilian nearly ten second off the pace after completing just six laps, but likely to start ahead of both cars from rival Virgin as Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi will drop five places due to a procedural infringement when the team failed to notify the FIA of the gearbox ratios they will use for the remainder of the weekend within two hours of the end of Friday practice.
Chandhok, however, is likely to start at the back having taken his own five-place penalty for a gearbox change, while Petrov's fate remains balanced on the extent of the damage caused by his shunt.