Lewis Hamilton retained his place at the head of the timesheets in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix - not that it was entirely perfect hour for the championship leader.

The driver to beat again, as he was in the second free practice session yesterday, Hamilton's lap of 1min 27.325secs was enough to edge the Ferrraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, but it was a session fraught with more questions than answers.

First and foremost, Hamilton, who was delayed by a reported clutch problem throughout Friday, spent the first part of the hour-long session in the garage again when a 'loose connector' caused him to stop on the run down to the pit lane. Rolled back into the garage, it proved a significant delay for the McLaren driver.

Nonetheless, the Brit was back on track after the midway point and was immediately on the pace, surging to the top of the timesheets with three-quarters of the session completed. Although that lap would see him maintain the top spot to the end of the hour, Hamilton experienced a spin with only a few seconds to go as he pushed on softer tyres.

Indeed, the tyres are another factor that is likely to cause a few headaches for strategists this weekend after no driver went quicker no the softer option at the end of the session. Perhaps most alarming was the fact that although Massa and Raikkonen were blisteringly quick in the first sector, they had lost over a second by the time they came round to complete the lap.

Nonetheless, Massa and Raikkonen were already settled in second and third, just four hundredths and one tenth off Hamilton respectively, while Fernando Alonso was a further three tenths adrift in fourth position as McLaren and Ferrari exert their authority on the field.

Indeed, seven tenths separated Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in fifth place, the German producing another fine showing ahead of qualifying to mark himself out as a potential surprise package.

Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica recovered from a modest first day of running to place their BMWs sixth and seventh, while the Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen in eighth and tenth, together with Mark Webber in ninth, rounded out the top ten.

Alex Wurz was eased out of the top ten in 11th, ahead of the second Red Bull of David Coulthard. Toyota's Friday form saw them adopt a conservative strategy for final practice, Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli yet again shadowing each other in 13th and 14th.

Honda were a solid 15th and 16th, although Jenson Button suffered some hydraulic problems midway through the session before returning back on track. At least they were ahead of the Super Aguris of Anthony Davidson in 17th and Takuma Sato in 20th, who, like Davidson yesterday, saw his session end in the turn three gravel trap.

Vitantonio Liuzzi beat Sebastian Vettel again for the 18th best time, half a second quicker than the German, while Spyker brought up the rear, Adrian Sutil trumping Sakon Yamamoto by a healthy seven tenths.

To view the full third free practice times for the Turkish Grand Prix click here

 

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