Final practice - Vettel storms to the top 26 Mar 2011
Just as it seemed that Mark Webber had once again done enough to head a practice session in Albert Park, his Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel came roaring home to wipe 0.857s off the Australians lap time.
Webbers 1m 25.364s was threatened by Lewis Hamiltons 1m 25.553s for McLaren, which itself undercut team mate Jenson Buttons 1m 25.567s. But then as it looked like the leading cars were really closely matched, Vettel gave a chilling demonstration of the Red Bull RB7s potential with 1m 24.507s, far and away the fastest lap of the weekend thus far.
As the McLarens confirmed the form they had shown yesterday, Vitaly Petrov showed that the Renault R31 is not a bad car with fifth fastest lap of 1m 25.906s to beat the man who could not pass him in Abu Dhabi: Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver never really seemed to get going, and had to be content with a 1m 26.121s best, which was probably not fully representative of the red cars real pace. Both left their team mates behind; Nick Heidfeld managed only 1m 26.746s for ninth in the second Renault, Felipe Massa 1m 27.011s in the second Ferrari.
In between them came on-form Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 26.417s for Sauber in an impressive seventh place, Nico Rosberg in eighth with the first Mercedes, on 1m 26.520s, Michael Schumacher in the other one in tenth on 1m 26.856s, and Sebastien Buemi in the fleet Toro Rosso on 1m 27.008s. His team mate Jaime Alguersuari was right behind Massa on 1m 27.066s, and in turn had the continuingly impressive rookie Paul di Resta right in his wheel tracks with 1m 27.087s in the Force India. Adrian Sutil was again upstaged by the Scot, taking 15th place behind him with 1m 27.180s.
It was not such a promising day for Williams as yesterday. Rubens Barrichello was 16th on 1m 28.068s, as Pastor Maldonado put his car off the road in Turn Six early on, just after lapping the FW33 in 1m 30.496s which left him 21st.
Sergio Perez wound up 17th for Sauber on 1m 28.077s after an off-track moment, then came the Lotus duo of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli on 1m 29.772s and 1m 30.003s respectively, and the improved Virgin of Timo Glock on 1m 30.261s. Jerome DAmbrsio continued to impress in the other MVR02, lapping it in 1m 30.704s.
Tonio Liuzzi got his HRT out before the session was half over, but it rolled to a stricken halt after less than half a lap. Team mate Narain Karthikeyan got a run at last, lapping his F111 in 1m 41.554s after a couple of laps right before the end.
Thus a pattern is emerging, with Red Bull leading the pack comfortably, but McLaren, Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes all in with a shout behind them.
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