Sebastian Vettel bounced back from missing the whole of second practice on Friday afternoon in Turkey to record the fastest time of the third and final session on Saturday morning.
The German, who suffered a rare accident on Friday morning and was forced to sit out the rest of the day, showed that Red Bull Racing would continue to be a force at Istanbul Park, despite being beaten to victory in China three weeks ago, and moved to the head of the timesheets with some way to go in the hour-long session. Vettel's time was also four-tenths inside that of Jenson Button which led the way on day one, although the top four runners all beat the Briton's mark by the time the chequered flag fell.
Vettel will have noticed, too, that his closest rival was not the silver-and-red cars of McLaren, but the silver-and-aqua of Mercedes, and of Michael Schumacher at that, after Germany's erstwhile poster boy clocked the second-best time of the session - just a thousandth shy of top spot. Schumacher had been out front until Vettel turned up the wick and felt comfortable with his RB7, while the second Mercedes, of Nico Rosberg, had earlier set the pace before being supplanted by its sister. Only Mark Webber prevented a Teutonic lock-out of the top three, posting his own late lap to deny Rosberg third spot by a couple of hundredths, despite both drivers having major moments during the session.
Ironically, the first driver unable to beat Friday's benchmark was the man who set it, with Button having to settle for fifth place, just over half a second off the pace. He again proved faster than McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton, while Renault's Vitaly Petrov claimed seventh place ahead of Ferrari colleagues Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. Alonso had a few problems in the F150 Italia, notably getting stuck in gear at one point, but rallied to edge his team-mate who, in turn, was a couple of tenths clear of Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi at the foot of the top ten.
In a session with notably fewer off-track moments than Friday, Sergio Perez was among the spinners, but recovered to post the eleventh-best time, putting him ahead of fellow rookie and Friday's most ragged runner, Pastor Maldonado. Adrian Sutil, Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello completed the top 15, ahead of Paul di Resta, Jaime Alguersuari, who stopped out on track early in the session and had to wait for his car to be recovered before rejoining the session.
Kamui Kobayashi was the slowest of the recognised midfielders in the second Sauber, but still had a second in hand over Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus. The second green-and-yellow machine of team-mate Jarno Trulli was next up, comfortably ahead of the Virgins and HRTs which brought up the rear, Tonio Liuzzi again threatening to split - or usurp - the British machines after getting close to both Jerome d'Ambrosio and Timo Glock on time.