F1 Malaysia FP3 Results & Report: Hamilton On Top, Heidfeld Sneaks In

What Happens When the Times Might Be Tightening Up

2:12am EST — Lewis Hamilton (1:36.340) was fastest in the final practice session before qualifying for the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, followed by Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Nick Heidfeld, and Sebastian Vettel as the fastest five. The hourlong session had no major incidents, though Vettel complained that his rear wing was not stalling correctly and Webber spent the first fifty-five minutes amongst the slowest of cars. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were sixth and eight, respectively, though the were quick on on the softer tires. Neither Renault suffered the issues that plagued them Friday and were amongst the fastest ten. If times were taken from this final practice (with the top three drivers faster than the fastest time Friday), neither HRT would qualify, having run up against the 107% rule. Both drivers were more than 6.744s slower than Hamilton.

Webber was fastest in both Friday practice sessions, leading Hamilton by over a second and a half in the first, while Button came within five thousandths of the quick Australian in the second. Vettel was slower than his older teammate in both, ending the sessions seventeenth and fourth, respectively. Meanwhile, Ferrari drivers Massa and Alonso continued the Italian team’s tradition of slow and steady times on Friday, though both were in the top ten in both sessions. HRT made it’s first appearance in Friday practice of the 2011 season at Sepang, and was on the cusp of staying within the 107% rule. It was a far worse day for Renault, though, as front suspension or upright issues plagued both Heidfeld and Petrov, as the team kept both men out of most of the second session to be sure the cars were safe.

The final practice started slowly, with all the drivers but Liuzzi and Karthikeyan quickly out for an installation lap but no times set until Petrov posted his first, seventeen minutes into the hourlong session. He was soon bettered by Trulli, though a Lotus at the top of the timecharts did not last long, until Kovalainen was fastest moments later. Heidfeld (1:39.426) was fastest twenty minutes in, followed by Hamilton, Petrov, Perez, and Kovalainen as the top five. The standard trading of fast laps ensued as cars found grip before the tires went off.

Though he was fifth fastest, Vettel complained to the team that the rear wing “does not stall anymore.” Halfway through the session, Hamilton (1:38.940) led Heidfeld, Button, Petrov, Vettel, Alonso, Maldonado, Perez, Sutil, and Rosberg as the top ten. The top seven were covered by just over six tenths. Meanwhile, Schumacher was fifteenth and Webber twentieth. Massa, di Resta, and Liuzzi had yet to set times. Less than five minutes later, Alonso went second fastest and Massa fastest of all (1:38.926). Around this time, di Resta spun twice. No one was around and he continued onwards both times.

Ferrari’s twitter feed is often amusing, not with cleverness, but in spite of itself, with the follwing back-to-back tweets, “Felipe did a slow lap and now is trying for a fast one again…As he is slower he aborted the lap and he is coming in.” With twenty minutes remaining, both Button and Alguersuari were faster than Massa, then so were Vettel and Buemi. Vettel (1:38.213) led Button, Buemi, Algersuari, Massa, Hamilton, Alonso, Heidfeld, Petrov, and Maldonado as the fastest ten, with less than a second covering Vettel through Heidfeld.

A few minutes later, Schumacher slotted into second in the Malaysian heat, with teammate Rosberg joining him near the top in third. Though it was sunny for the final practice, most predictions suggested rain at some point during qualifying. Most drivers were back in the garage with fifteen minutes remaining. Only Liuzzi had yet to set a time. His HRT teammate Karthikeyan was twentieth, faster than both Virgin Racing divers and Webber (six seconds off Vettel’s pace and twenty-second fastest).

Back on the track, Alonso was quickly fastest on the softer tire with a lap time of 1:37.284. The 107% rule would allow for a lap time 6.088s slower to qualify. At that time, neither Webber nor D’Ambrosio were quick enough, though no one would suspect Webber of lacking pace after his performance Friday (1:36.876). Massa soon joined Alonso at the top, only to have Button best both of them.

Every driver was on track with five minutes remaining. Hamilton led Button, Heidfeld, Alonso, and Petrov with four left and many drivers posting quick times, except Webber. The Australian had dropped to slowest with three and a half minutes left, only to move right up to second fastest his next time around. The top three were all faster than the fastest time Friday.

Final Times for FP3, Malaysia GP:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:36.340 11
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:36.630 0.290 16
3. Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.762 0.422 14
4. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:37.115 0.775 17
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:37.175 0.835 14
6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.284 0.944 11
7. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:37.297 0.957 17
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:37.762 1.422 12
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:38.059 1.719 18
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:38.300 1.960 20
11. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:38.307 1.967 20
12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:38.448 2.108 17
13. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:38.464 2.124 16
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:38.597 2.257 15
15. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:38.665 2.325 14
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:38.681 2.341 16
17. Jaime Alguerrsuari Toro Rosso 1:38.716 2.376 14
18. Paul di Resta Force India 1:38.864 2.524 13
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:39.260 2.920 19
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:39.699 3.359 15
21. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 1:41.215 4.875 17
22. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:41.414 5.074 18
23. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1:43.147 6.807 6
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:43.383 7.043 11

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