F1 Australia FP3 Result & Report: Vettel Dominates Final Practice

What Happens When Everything Changes & Stays the Same

12:21am EST — Sebastian Vettel ended the practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix with a second of pace over the rest of the field, barring teammate Mark Webber. The Australian was over eight tenths slower than his teammate and led the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, with Vitaly Petrov completing the fastest five in the final practice session at Albert Park before qualifying later today. Fernando Alonso slid down to sixth fastest after spending the day doing practice race runs while both HRTs managed to get out on track. The Spanish team still looks unlikely to qualifying for Sunday’s race with Tonio Liuzzi only completing four turns before his car stopped working and Narain Karthikeyan seventeen seconds off Vettel’s pace in his return to F1.

Friday was a dreary, windy, and cool day in Melbourne, and one where two teams had the glory of leading the timesheets. Red Bull dominated the first session, with Webber taking the fastest lap from teammate Vettel at the end of a generally uneventful FP1. Karun Chandhok, in his position as Lotus reserve/test driver, put the car straight into the barrier exiting Turn 3 on the slippery track. Many drivers were off and on in both sessions, but no one damaged the car the way the Indian driver did. In the second session, McLaren were at the leading edge, with Button faster than teammate Hamilton and a second quicker than the Red Bulls in the first practice. Alonso was third quickest in both sessions.

Saturday was also cool and overcast, with the teams seemingly vying to see who could out-wait the others for track conditions to improve. Fifteen minutes into this final practice session, Glock set the first time (1:35.394, ten seconds slower than Button’s on Friday) and Liuzzi finally joined the fray in the HRT. He managed four turns before the car went into neutral during braking, and shut down completely.

Petrov was the first driver into anything approaching decent lap times with a 1:28.385, twenty minutes into the session. At the halfway point of the hour-long session, Vettel (1:27.337) led Rosberg, Button, Petrov, and Heidfeld as the fastest five. Only sixth fastest Kobayashi joined them in the 1:27s lap time. Alonso quickly slotted into seventh with his second timed lap, then Webber moved into fifth on his first. Meanwhile, Force India was experiencing KERS issues, first telling Sutil that the system had failed but to carry on, then informing the German that the system was working again.

Webber soon eclipsed teammate Vettel, posting a time of 1:26.993. Surprisningly, it was Buemi who was second fastest, then third with twenty minutes left in the session as Button picked up the pace in his McLaren to post the first lap time in the 1:25s (1:25.961), just a tenth slower than the fastest time Friday. It was short-lived, however, as minutes later Vettel was fastest of all again, and fastest of the weekend with a blisteringly fast 1:25.327.

When 15 minutes remained, Vettel led Button, Alonso, Webber, Buemi, Petrov, Alguersuari, Rosberg, Hamilton, and Heidfeld as most of the field returned to the garages for final tweaks. Soon Hamilton moved into third with a quick lap of his own. Only Hamilton, Massa, and Maldonado remained out with just over ten minutes remaining. Again, neither HRT had set a time with the minutes left for practice ticking away, though HRT insisted that Karthikeyan was “close to go out” on Twitter.He left the garage with about seven minutes of track time to get back into the F1 groove.

Nearly all the drivers were on track with five minutes left, and though Vettel still led, behind him the order kept changing. At the moment, Button, Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, Buemi, Massa, Petrov, Alguersuari, and Rosberg were the fastest five. Petrov, though, was charging to the top, going second fastest, but still over a half second slower than Vettel. Webber was not to be stopped, putting his Red Bull just under four thousandths off Vettel’s best lap…except Vettel had found an amazing bit of pace and had dropped his own time to 1:24.507. The final minutes of practice were a melee of changing times, and the qualifying sessions later in the day are likely to prove just as furious.

Final Times for FP3, Australian GP:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:24.507 15
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:25.364 0.857 14
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:25.553 1.046 15
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1:25.567 1.060 16
5. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:25.906 1.399 18
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:26.121 1.614 16
7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:26.417 1.910 17
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:26.520 2.013 17
9. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:26.746 2.239 17
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:26.856 2.349 15
11. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:27.008 2.501 17
12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:27.011 2.504 15
13. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:27.066 2.559 14
14. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:27.087 2.580 15
15. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:27.180 2.673 15
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:28.068 3.561 7
17. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:29.077 3.570 9
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:30.772 5.265 17
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:30.003 5.496 18
20. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:30.261 5.754 15
21. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:30.496 5.989 5
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 1:30.704 6.197 18
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:41.554 17.047 5
24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT N/A N/A 1

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