Malaysian GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report
Webber puts Red Bull back on top
Mark Webber set the fastest time of Saturday morning practice for the second race in a row as the Red Bulls again showed they are likely to be the cars to beat in qualifying.
Webber went to the top of the times with four minutes of the session remaining, pipping the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton, as the teams started their qualifying runs. A minute later his team-mate Sebastian Vettel was heading for an even faster time when he was blocked in the last sector, ending up 3rd.
The third practice session of the weekend began in heavy cloud. The Ferraris and Red Bulls set the early pace and it wasn’t long before the top eight positions were held by the top eight cars. Rain was due after 35 minutes but in the end the showers avoided the circuit and it didn’t affect the times. Some of the teams nonetheless brought their programmes forward to make sure of getting in all their dry running in time.
At that stage the McLarens were back at the top of the timesheets, with Hamilton ahead for the third time this weekend. McLaren’s so-called ‘F-Duct’ - the device to stall the rear wing on the straights - is really playing its part in the team’s form here this weekend, allowing the cars to load up with downforce without too great a penalty. Jenson Button ended the session in 7th place, half a second shy of his team-mate.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished in 4th, four tenths up on team-mate Felipe Massa in 8th. At Mercedes Michael Schumacher pipped team-mate Nico Rosberg for 5th place and the multiple world champion is a happy man this weekend - as, admittedly, he looked in Australia before the race.
Rubens Barrichello’s Williams and Robert Kubica’s Renault rounded off the top ten, while the Pole’s team-mate Vitaly Petrov went off into the gravel and Jaime Alguersuari had a half-spin in his Toro Rosso.
Timo Glock, who took a podium here last year, was the top driver of the new teams in the Virgin. Lotus had a more troubled morning as a piece of front wing seemed to fall off Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus with five minutes remaining.
As usual in Malaysia, there is a 95 percent chance of rain between now and the end of qualifying. That means that Q1 and Q2 assume an unusual importance - because if a storm washes out the afternoon’s activity any times already set will be used to form the grid. If the entire session is washed out there is talk of delaying the session until Sunday morning…