Final practice - Vettel moves ahead in Spain 12 May 2012
Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in a very tight final practice session in Barcelona on Saturday morning, but it would have been a very close-run thing had McLarens Lewis Hamilton not been blocked at the end of a very fast lap by traffic.
Vettel lapped his Red Bull in 1m 23.168s to depose surprise fastest man Pastor Maldonado, whose 1m 23.336s for Willams had earlier upset a Sauber one-two. Kamui Kobayashi held on to third place for the Swiss team with 1m 23.350s but team mate Sergio Perez, the long-time pacesetter with 1m 23.742s, was pushed down to fifth late on by Mark Webber who recorded 1m 23.578s in the second Red Bull.
Vettels first two sector times on his quick lap were 23.0s and 31.3s; Hamilton had earlier recorded 22.9s and 31.3s, but where Vettel completed his lap with 28.7s, Hamilton was forced to abort after he encountered Kimi Raikkonens Lotus and Narain Karthikeyans HRT going slowly in the final chicane. He thus remained 16th on 1m 24.778s.
Fernando Alonso was an encouraging sixth for Ferrari on 1m 23.807s, ahead of the impressive Jean-Eric Vergnes Toro Rosso on 1m 23.833s, Jenson Buttons McLaren on 1m 23.909s and Raikkonens Lotus on 1m 23.936s. Nico Rosbergs Mercedes completed the top 10 with 1m 24.070s, putting 10 cars within a second of one another.
Felipe Massa was 11th in 1m 24.179s, complaining of a problem with the rear end of his Ferrari, while Nico Hulkenbergs strong form for Force India continued with 12th place on 1m 24.323s. Daniel Ricciardo was 13th in the second Toro Rosso with 1m 24.331s from Williams Bruno Senna on 1m 24.409s, Force Indias Paul di Resta on 1m 24.599s, Hamilton and Michael Schumacher who also lost a good lap in the Mercedes and had to settle for 1m 24.825s.
Vitaly Petrov continued to please Caterham with 1m 25.911s for 18th ahead of team mate Heikki Kovalainen on 1m 26.587s, while Charles Pic was Marussias leader on 1m 27.469s as Timo Glock posted 1m 27.689s before stopping at the end of the pit lane. Karthikeyan was 22nd on 1m 28.207s, narrowly beating HRT team mate Pedro de la Rosas 1m 28.373s. Romain Grosjean was at the back without a time, after his Renault stopped on his out lap with suspected loss of fuel pressure.
The form for qualifying is far from clear still, and many teams believe they will have to use a set of option tyres just to break into Q2, and may limit their running in Q3 as a result if they get through. Whatever happens, its going to be close.
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