Lewis Hamilton quickest in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix
|By Pablo Elizalde||Saturday, March 17th 2012, 04:05 GMT|
Lewis Hamilton put McLaren on top of the times in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix, in a session that saw world champion Sebastian Vettel spin into the gravel.
Hamilton waited until the final minute to complete his flyer, stopping the clock at 1m25.681s to outpace the Lotus of Romain Grosjean, second quickest.
Red Bull's Mark Webber was third quickest, while team-mate Sebastian Vettel finished down in seventh after spinning off with 15 minutes of the session left.
Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button was fourth fastest, the Briton followed by Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.
Ferrari endured a difficult session, with Fernando Alonso finishing down in 16th position, two places ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa.
Track conditions improved vastly compared to yesterday's sessions, which were hit by rain, and final practice took place on a dry track under clear skies. That meant teams took full advantage of the 60 minutes in order to make up for the time lost yesterday.
Teams had an extra set of tyres available following yesterday's rain-hit practice.
After the initial installation laps from all drivers, Rosberg was the first man to attempt a timed lap five minutes into the session, but the German ran wide at the first corner. The same happened to team-mate Schumacher just seconds later but this time at Turn 2.
Rosberg still set the early benchmark initially with a 1m26.982, the quickest lap of the weekend at that point. The Mercedes driver remained on top of the times until the 17-minute mark, when Hamilton completed his first flying lap to relegate his rival to second.
The Briton did not last long as pace-setter, however, as Schumacher went quickest just seconds later, moments after the yellow flags were deployed when Felipe Massa spun at the penultimate corner. The Brazilian recovered straight away.
Rosberg returned to the top at the 23-minute mark with the first lap of the weekend in the 1m25s, outpacing Schumacher by three tenths of a second. A minute later the yellow flags were back out as Bruno Senna lost control of his Williams at the penultimate corner, spinning into the grass and driving straight back into the pits.
Vettel's session came to an early finish when he lost control of his car at Turn 6, the German spinning off the track. His Red Bull got stuck in the gravel and the world champion was unable to return to action, continuing with his difficult start to the weekend.
Grosjean jumped to first place with seven minutes remaining as the teams began to run with the softer Pirelli compound. Schumacher's session came to a halt a minute later when he spun into the gravel at Turn 9. The yellow flags ruined some of his rivals' runs.
With a minute to go, Hamilton put his McLaren at the head of the times with a time 0.077 seconds quicker than Grosjean, including the best time in sector three.
Pedro de la Rosa managed his first timed lap of the weekend in the HRT, the Spaniard struggling with power steering problems to finish over seven seconds off the pace in 23rd, ahead of team-mate Narain Karthikeyan.
With the 107 per cent cut-off time expected to be around 1m31s, both de la Rosa and team-mate Narain Karthikeyan face a tough battle to qualify for the race.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.681s 18 2. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m25.758s + 0.077 21 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m25.900s + 0.219 20 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.906s + 0.225 17 5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.929s + 0.248 23 6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.078s + 0.397 14 7. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m26.211s + 0.530 12 8. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m26.470s + 0.789 17 9. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.632s + 0.951 20 10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.723s + 1.042 17 11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.733s + 1.052 15 12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m26.737s + 1.056 19 13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.755s + 1.074 21 14. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m27.029s + 1.348 23 15. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m27.119s + 1.438 20 16. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m27.323s + 1.642 19 17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m27.428s + 1.747 22 18. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.023s + 2.342 19 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m28.341s + 2.660 19 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m28.702s + 3.021 11 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m30.728s + 5.047 13 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m31.225s + 5.544 14 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m33.114s + 7.433 12 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m33.261s + 7.580 13 All Timing Unofficial