29 October 2011
Vettel fastest in final Indian GP practice
Sebastian Vettel steals top spot in final free practice from Jenson Button to give Red Bull share of pre-qualifying honours.
After McLaren and Ferrari had shared the spotlight in Friday's two free practice sessions, Sebastian Vettel ensured that Red Bull would not be left out as he topped the times in the final hour of preparation for Indian Grand Prix qualifying.
The German, who had finished second in both Friday sessions left it late to return to the top of the timesheets, toppling McLaren's Jenson Button from P1 as he crossed the line for the final time. His time of 1min 24.824secs was just under a second faster than Felipe Massa's benchmark from Friday, despite more dust having settled on the Buddh International Circuit overnight.
After the mid and rear of the grid teams had ventured out and taken brief stints at the top of the times, and the teams had completed their work on the harder Pirelli tyres, Button and Mark Webber both took turns at the front, before Vettel turned up the wick on his final lap. Despite having to negotiate slower runners, the German posted fastest first and third sector times to come in three-tenths under Button's best and set himself up as favourite for yet another pole position.
Webber's best effort split the two McLarens, leaving Lewis Hamilton in fourth spot, ahead of the two Ferraris. Fernando Alonso had a couple of tenths in hand over team-mate Massa, despite the Brazilian again running with the super-flexible front wing that he sported on day one. With the flex - and resulting sparks - raising questions up and down the pit-lane, Massa was fitted with a stiffer version of the wing for his final outing, and it looks likely to remain in qualifying.
Paul di Resta gave the home crowd something to cheer by pushing Force India into seventh position, ahead of Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, while Adrian Sutil and Sebastien Buemi rounded out the top ten.
Michael Schumacher had to settle for eleventh spot, two seconds off the pace and just ahead of Bruno Senna, who escaped another trip into the barriers after losing his Lotus Renault on the painted run-off area at turn one. The midfield continued to prove closely matched, with Renault, Sauber and Toro Rosso all tightly bunched, with Williams duo Pastor Maldonado and Rubens Barrichello attempting to hang on to their coat-tails and avoid another Q1 exit.
Jarno Trulli was fully 1.5secs adrift of Barrichello but the faster of the two Lotus drivers, while local hero Narain Karthikeyan out-performed Virgin's Jerome d'Ambrosio to claim 22nd spot.
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