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Final practice - unhappy Red Bull back on top, just 09 Jul 2011

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, British Grand Prix, Practice Day, Silverstone, England, Friday, 8 July 2011 Red Bull's Adrian Newey and Christian Horner  walk across the paddock Hamilton greets the cameras ahead of final practice Force India's Di Resta locks up under braking Massa shows his frustration as he feels he is blocked by Lotus driver Kovalainen

Sebastian Vettel is used to being fastest in practice sessions, but on a mostly dry track at Silverstone this morning he and Red Bull drew even more satisfaction from their performance following more dramas over the degree of off-throttle exhaust blowing which is still allowed under the new rules.

Following the spat yesterday between Red Bull’s Christian Horner and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh, over that very subject, the FIA finally backtracked this morning and said that while Mercedes could still use cylinder firing on the overrun because it has always been part of their engine design, Renault could no longer use the 50 percent off-throttle exhaust blowing they had been allowed on Friday on reliability grounds but must, like everyone else, be restricted to just 10 percent.

Horner and Red Bull technical boss Adrian Newey spent much of the hour-long session arguing the matter in race control, before heading angrily back to the Red Bull pit. Uncertainty still surrounds the issue, with race director Charlie Whiting subsequently calling an extraordinary meeting of team technical bosses ahead of qualifying.

Red Bull still had the last laugh on track, as Vettel lapped in 1m 31.401s and Mark Webber in 1m 31.829s for third fastest time, but Fernando Alonso was in the between them for Ferrari and only 0.063s off Vettel with 1m 31.464s.

McLaren, by contrast, had a troubled morning. Jenson Button was sixth on 1m 32.956s, after having to negotiate Daniel Ricciardo’s HRT during his best lap, separated from the top three by Felipe Massa in fourth on 1m 32.169s and Pastor Maldonado’s Williams on 1m 32.496s. Lewis Hamilton was only 13th on 1m 33.842s, after never really getting going due to a KERS problem.

Between the two silver cars, Kamui Kobayashi was seventh for Sauber on 1m 33.014s, followed by Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes on 1m 33.044s, Sergio Perez’s Sauber on 1m 33.264s, Paul di Resta’s Force India on 1m 33.423s, Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes on 1m 33.551s and Adrian Sutil’s Force India on 1m 33.660s. Schumacher spun early on in Turn Three, after rain monetarily rendered the track very slippery.

Rubens Barrichello was 14th in the second Williams on 1m 33.905s, then came Vitaly Petrov’s Renault on 1m 34.042s, the Toro Rossos of Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi on 1m 34.329s and 1m 34.799s, and Nick Heidfeld’s Renault on 1m 34.822s.

Heikki Kovalainen was comprehensively the faster Team Lotus runner with 1m 35.225s, as team mate Jarno Trulli only recorded 1m 36.905s in his T128. Timo Glock was Virgin’s faster driver on 1m 37.614s to Jerome D’Ambrosio’s 1m 38.068s, and Ricciardo beat HRT team mate Tonio Liuzzi, 1m 38.259s to 1m 38.568s.

With the still-changeable weather it was yet another inconclusive session, but a pattern is at last beginning to emerge that suggests Red Bull could still be on top after qualifying, but that Ferrari are likely to be their closest challengers.

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