Sebastian Vettel continued to suggest that there is little to stop him achieving the rare feat of being a three-time winner at the start of an F1 season as he again controlled the timesheets in final practice for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Having swept both Friday sessions at the Shanghai International Circuit, the German reduced his benchmark time to 1min 34.968secs in the final 60-minute session on Saturday morning, as track conditions improved enough for everyone to find more speed. Although the weather remained cool and cloudy, Vettel's lap was 2.3secs faster than he had managed on day one, but he still had the two McLarens for company, with Jenson Button this time getting the better of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
As they had on Friday, the two Britons proved evenly-matched, with Button only a couple of tenths ahead of Hamilton, and the pair comfortably clear of fourth-placed Nico Rosberg, who continued Mercedes apparent return to form with fourth place, ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard had languished down the order for much of the session, but found time at the end to break into the top five, and move ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, who also looks more on his game with sixth place, just a tenth shy of Alonso.
Vitaly Petrov maintained Renault's presence among the leading runners, edging Force India's Adrian Sutil - another top ten ever-present in his two sessions - with Michael Schumacher and Paul di Resta, in the second Force India, rounding out the top ten.
Notable by his absence from the leading group, however, was Mark Webber, whose dismal start to the season continued with an electrical problem that prevented him from joining the late pursuit of times and had Red Bull engineers crawling over the second RB7 in search of a cure. The Australian, who has yet to find the podium in 2011 while team-mate Vettel has won twice, ended the morning in 15th position, behind Nick Heidfeld, Sauber duo Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez, and the leading Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi.
The other STR entry, of Jaime Alguersuari, sandwiched Webber in 16th, narrowly ahead of the two Williams drivers, who continued to struggle for pace in the FW33. Despite that, Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado remained easily ahead of the tail-enders, headed by Team Lotus, and with Marussia Virgin now back ahead of HRT after failing to overcome both of the Spanish cars in Friday practice.