Kimi Raikkonen ensured that he would head into this afternoon's European Grand Prix qualifying session as favourite to land pole position by topping the third and final free practice session at the Nurburgring.

As had been the case on Friday, the Finn and McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton led the way, with Raikkonen again getting the better of the championship leader, this time by a shade over two-tenths of a second as both drivers raised the stakes late in the one-hour session. The Ferrari man's mark of 1min 31.396secs was also the fastest of the weekend so far, eclipsing Hamilton's 1min 32.515secs effort from Friday morning.

Fernando Alonso claimed third spot for McLaren and Mercedes, a further four-tenths back, while BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica again prevented the top two teams from filling the first four places - as team-mate Nick Heidfeld had early on day one. Felipe Massa was close behind in fifth, while Heidfeld, perhaps distracted by the news that he is now the father of a baby boy, settled for seventh behind the inspired Nico Rosberg, who maintained a top ten presence for Williams.

Mark Webber claimed eighth in a good hour for Red Bull Racing, which saw David Coulthard backing his Aussie team-mate up in ninth. Ralf Schumacher continued both his and Toyota's promising start to the weekend in tenth.

The German's team-mate was unable to back Schumacher up, however, Jarno Trulli being separated from the top ten by both Tonio Liuzzi - looking quick in the best of the Toro Rossos - and Jenson Button, who ceded a top ten slot for the first time this weekend, but remained in touch with the leading group as he seeks an upturn in form for Honda.

Scott Speed took 14th to give added encouragement to STR, ahead of Alex Wurz and the two Renaults, still languishing a long way from BMW, its rival for third in the constructors' championship. Rubens Barrichello split Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen after the Finn pitted mid-session.

 

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