26 October 2013
Indian Grand Prix: Vettel again in truncated FP3
Sebastian Vettel again topped the times in practice for the Indian Grand Prix, but Red Bull still could not escape signs of tyre trouble.
Sebastian Vettel confirmed his status as favourite for Sunday's Indian Grand Prix by completing a clean sweep of free practice, topping the third and final session by half a second from Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber.
After a 20-minute delay to the start of the session, caused by a level of smog that prevented the medical helicopter from becoming airborne, Vettel took a little time to get up to speed before banging in a 1min 25.332secs lap on the softer Pirelli tyre. He then reverted to completing longer runs on heavier fuel loads on the same option tyre in preparation for raceday after Red Bull struggled with its tyres on day one.
After Esteban Gutierrez posted the first flying lap, Webber led the way until Vettel took over at the top, and the Australian remained second overall even after following his team-mate into race preparation. His 1min 25.892secs effort was good enough to keep him a couple of tenths clear of third-placed Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard jumping up the order in the second half of the session as he continued to play catch-up after Friday's gearbox problem.
Fourth spot went to Nico Hulkenberg, the German pushing Sauber higher up the order than expected, ending the morning ahead of both Lotus and Mercedes. Hulkenberg, whose future remains unclear as teams take their time deciding on drivers for 2014, was not alone in complaining about tyre wear, with both his front Pirellis showing distinct dark rings before the end of his run. The German also bowled over one of his mechanics as he returned to the pits between runs.
Romain Grosjean, third on Friday, completed the top five this time around, a fraction slower than Hulkenberg and a tenth clear of Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari. Paul di Resta continued the surprises, pushing Force India into seventh spot after a difficult opening day, while Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton completed the top ten.
Kimi Raikkonen was less than a tenth shy of Hamilton's best effort, but had Pastor Maldonado just 0.006secs behind him as Williams continued to suggest it could be a factor in Q2. Team-mate Valtteri Bottas slipped back to 16th, separated from the Venezuelan by Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil and Jean-Eric Vergne, while Daniel Ricciardo, who had brought up the rear for much of the session, filled 17th place.
Charles Pic gave Caterham a fillip by pushing himself ahead of Gutierrez, although it remains to be seen how much the Mexican was struggling physically after a heavy landing when his Sauber took off over one of the circuit's more aggressive kerbs. Despite reporting that the car was alright after returning to earth, the youngster's response tailed off, suggesting that he may have suffered more than the machine.
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