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Final practice - Hamilton moves ahead in Malaysia 09 Apr 2011

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, 8 April 2011 Another steamy but cloudy day awaits Third Practice and Qualifying Alonso closes the gap to the leading drivers in the final practice session Di Resta locks up at the final corner and finds himself pointing at the grandstand

Lewis Hamilton took his turn at the top of the timesheets after the final free practice session finished at 2pm here in Sepang this afternoon.

After a flurry of fast times as drivers switched to Pirelli’s soft tyre, the McLaren driver lapped in 1m 36.340s. Mark Webber, who had hitherto languished in 22nd place after what seemed to be a troubled session, then jumped up to second place for Red Bull with 1m 36.630s, 0.290s adrift. With Sebastian Vettel only fifth on 1m 37.175s, it may be that the world champions have yet to show their full hand.

Jenson Button underlined McLaren’s pace with third on 1m 36.762s, while Nick Heidfeld pushed up to fourth on a thus far trouble-free day for Renault, with 1m 37.115s.

Behind Vettel, Fernando Alonso was disappointed to see what had initially been the fastest time, 1m 37.284s, fade to only sixth for Ferrari, ahead of Vitaly Petrov on 1m 37.297s in the second Renault and team mate Felipe Massa on 1m 37.762s.

Kamui Kobayashi showed the value of the Sauber C30 with ninth fastest time of 1m 38.059s, ahead of Michael Schumacher who continued to set the pace for Mercedes with 1m 38.300s from team mate Nico Rosberg who was right behind him on 1m 38.307s. Then came Sergio Perez in the second Sauber on 1m 38.448s, Adrian Sutil in the lead Force India on 1m 38.464s, Pastor Maldonado again leading the Williams challenger on 1m 38.597s, Sebastien Buemi in the lead Toro Rosso on 1m 38.665s, Williams’ Rubens Barrichello on 1m 38.681s, Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari on 1m 38.716s and Force India rookie Paul di Resta on 1m 38.864s after a brace of early spins.

Heikki Kovalainen led the Lotus battle with 1m 39.260s with team mate Jarno Trulli next on 1m 39.699s, which left them well ahead of the Virgins of Jerome D’Ambrosio on 1m 41.215s and Timo Glock on 1m 41.414s, and the HRTS of Tonio Liuzzi on 1m 43.147s and Narain Karthikeyan on 1m 43.383s.

So the scene is set for a tough qualifying battle, which might be interrupted by showers though the skies were clear as these words were written. It remains to be seen how much Red Bull has in hand, but we’ll know soon.

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