Robert Kubica showed that his Suzuka qualifying form was no fluke by posting the fastest time in final practice for the inaugural Korean Grand Prix. ahead of the five championship contenders.

It was tight at the top of the timesheets, however, with the Pole less than a tenth of a second ahead of the three drivers immediately behind him, and only a couple of tenths clear of fifth-placed Nico Rosberg. As expected, though, it was McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull leading the pursuit of the Renault, with Lewis Hamilton only 0.048secs adrift, with Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber similarly close, at 0.072 and 0.087secs adrift respectively.

There was disappointment and frustration for the remaining championship challengers Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, with the Briton seventh - a full second off the pace - and his German rival well down in 16th after problems restricted him to just nine laps. Felipe Massa pushed his Ferrari between Rosberg and Button, suggesting that he may be able to support Alonso's challenge this weekend, while Nico Hulkenberg - despite an oil pressure gremlin - Michael Schumacher and Adrian Sutil bolstered the Teutonic representation in the top ten.

Vitaly Petrov, in the second Renault, suggested that he could be a threat for the top ten shoot-out in qualifying, while Sebastien Buemi gave Toro Rosso hope in 13th, behind the second Williams of Rubens Barrichello and ahead of Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) and team-mate Jaime Alguersuari.

Nick Heidfeld was only 17th in the other Sauber, but Tonio Liuzzi filled what would be the final spot in the Q1 drop zone after further problems with his Force India saw him post a best lap just a tenth faster than Jarno Trulli's Lotus.

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