Sebastian Vettel has led a Red Bull one-two in final practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
As the German headed Mark Webber, Felipe Massa managed third for Ferrari but both McLaren drivers lost their quickest laps because of traffic. Much work is being carried out on Nico Hülkenberg’s car following a crash. Once again, the weather was ideal as the first Saturday track action began at 11 o’clock. Lotus again elected to put its ‘Double DRS’ aside for the weekend, which could be a huge championship blow for Kimi Räikkönen, as Marussia ran a new steering rack for Charles Pic’s.
Michael Schumacher and Paul di Resta targeted clean sessions following their Spoon Curve accidents of yesterday. Leading the session halfway through, Vettel was also atop the timesheets when the chequered flag flew courtesy of his best effort of 1:32.136s. This edged out Webber by two tenths of a second, but the pace of both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton remains to be seen as the McLaren duo were held up by Michael Schumacher and Pic, respectively; both cases could be perceived as dangerous, as the seven-time World Champion was coasting in the middle of 130R while the Frenchman looked almost stationary as Hamilton approached the Casio Triangle chicane at full speed.
At Lotus, Räikkönen’s title aspirations appear to be heading out of the window quickly. Not happy with his car since practice began yesterday, the Finn this time suffered a suspected problem with a rear anti-roll bar and spent much of his time in the garage. He could manage no more than 12th place at the end of the session, one position behind championship leader Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, as the quickest Lotus of Romain Grosjean trailed the Sauber cars in fifth to seventh slots.
No sooner had Force India repaired di Resta’s car after his shunt of yesterday, than Hülkenberg had lost his rear end and skidded into the barriers at the second Degner. This leaves the Silverstone team with less than two hours to repair the whole of his left-front suspension assembly as well as damage to the left-rear quarter – another negative situation in the team’s battle for sixth place in the championship.
Williams also struggled, as Pastor Maldonado suffered issues with the back of his car. A session of mechanical difficulties, off-track excursions and many problems with traffic has ended with Red Bull on top, but McLaren are still being viewed as serious contenders. The Woking squad now aims for its fifth consecutive pole position.