Chinese GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report
Webber quickest in final practice
Mark Webber's Red Bull (1:35.323) set the quickest time in final practice for the Chinese Grand Prix with qualifying shaping up into a Red Bull versus McLaren battle. Lewis Hamilton, who set the pace on the opening day in Shanghai, was second fastest (1:35.564), ahead of Malaysian winner Sebastian Vettel (1:35.691) and Jenson Button (1:35.747).
Fernando Alonso, who so impressed the Ferrari team with his clutchless drive in Malaysia was fifth quickest (1:35.857), from Nico Rosberg's Mercedes (1:35.913) and the sister car of seven times world champion Michael Schumacher (1:36.262).
The session was red-flagged when Vitaly Petrov lost his Renault out of the final turn and skewed into the tyre barrier, the team crew now faced with a race to get Petrov's chassis repaired in time for qualifying. Team mate Robert Kubica (1:36.343) was eighth quickest, ahead of Felipe Massa (1:36.416) and Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber (1:36.634).
Jaime Alguersuari built on his impressive display in Malaysia with 11th quickest time for Torro Rosso (1:36.879) as the team locked into a mid-grid battle with Force India and was a few tenths quicker than Swiss team mate Sebastian Buemi, who lost Friday's running after his spectacular incident at Turn 14 and who reported that the back end of the car felt too stiff when he finally got some significant circuit time under his belt.
Red Bull looks well placed to continue its uninterrupted run of 2010 pole positions when qualifying gets underway, the team playing down some frantic activity around the left front wheel of Sebastian Vettel's car during the session. Vettel retired when he had a failure on the left front under braking in Australia, but team principal Christian Horner confirmed, "there's no problem, it was just that Seb got a stone trapped between the hub and the wheel which scored the rim a little bit, but we've got no concerns."
With drivers reporting more grounding over a bump going into Turn 1 than in the past at Shanghai, Jenson Button said that the McLarens seem to be quite badly affected both there and in Turn 8. The MP4-25s were also more adversely affected than some rivals by the bumpy section of circuit at the season-opening race in Bahrain but again the team seems quietly confident that it is in good shape for qualifying.
Both Mercedes and Williams have tried versions of McLaren's F-duct (apparently officially known within the team as the 'RW80'). Schumacher experimented with it on Friday and Rosberg has now tried the device as well, but Williams reverted to its original spec rear wing for the later part of the session. With some team parts arriving late after apparently being impounded by Chinese customs, it is anticipated that they will experiment further at the first race of the European season in Barcelona.