Lewis Hamilton looks set to climb further up the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix after showing strong pace in Saturday practice ahead of qualifying.
The McLaren driver, who once again faces intense scrutiny this weekend for his involvement in the lie-gate scandal, carried his Friday pace into the final practice session clocking the fourth quickest time, while Ferrari also showed signs of improvement.
Timo Glock took the top spot though, edging out Ferrari’s Felipe Massa on a 1:32.605. But a mechanical problem left the German stranded out on the track shortly afterwards, putting his qualifying session in jeopardy.
Williams’ Nico Rosberg, another driver running strongly in Bahrain after pacing quickest in Friday’s afternoon warm-up, vaulted up to third with, ahead of Hamilton, Raikkonen, and the man under the most pressure this weekend, Nelson Piquet.
It was a low key session for the Brawn GP and Red Bull teams who between them have dominated the opening three races on the calendar. Chinese Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel paced eleventh quickest with teammate Webber in eighteenth, while Brawn GP’s Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello lined up in fifteenth and sixteenth.
Once again the super soft tyres stood up well to the demands of the Bahrain climate as the drivers battled against searing track temperatures and strong cross winds.
Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen hit the track early in the session confirming that Ferrari are on the back foot here in Bahrain with plenty of work to do on their setup.
Massa posted a benchmark time of 1:35.553, but not before locking-up his cold tyres and running wide at Turn 10.
Toyota’s Timo Glock was quick to dethrone both the Ferraris and his teamamte on a 1:35.553, but it McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton who sat at the top of the timesheets at the midpoint after posting the fastest final sector time.
Making good use of the super soft tyres Hamilton improved to a 1:32.975, before a flurry of flying laps in the last quarter of the hour saw the times tumble.
Timo Glock returned to the top of the timesheets on a 1:32.605 when he too bolted on the super-soft tyres with just under ten minutes remaining, but the German stopped out on track with a mechanical problem moments later.
His time remained unbeaten in the final minutes of the session. Behind the Toyota driver Felipe Massa vaulted up into second place ahead of Williams’ Nico Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton dropped to fourth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen showing signs of improvement for Ferrari.
Under pressure Renault driver Nelson Piquet, who could face being dropped by the French team if he fails to improve this weekend, climbed up to sixth place with a late charge in his R29. Teamamte Fernando Alonso wound up thirteenth.
BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica was seventh place ahead of Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima. Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld round out the top ten.
Heikki Kovalainen was forced to sit out most of the opening half hour with a throttle sensor problem, McLaren fixed the problem enabling the Finn to take twelfth place.
1 Timo Glock Toyota 1:32.605 2 Felipe Massa Ferrari 0:00.123 3 Nico Rosberg Williams 0:00.301 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 0:00.370 5 Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen Ferrari 0:00.381 6 Nelson Piquet Renault 0:00.571 7 Robert Kubica BMW 0:00.590 8 Kazuki Nakajima Williams 0:00.697 9 Jarno Trulli Toyota 0:00.792 10 Nick Heidfeld BMW 0:00.810 11 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 0:00.838 12 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren 0:00.873 13 Fernando Alonso Renault 0:00.877 14 Adrian Sutil Force India 0:00.929 15 Jenson Button Brawn 0:00.981 16 Rubens Barrichello Brawn 0:01.081 17 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 0:01.115 18 Mark Webber Red Bull 0:01.121 19 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India 0:01.357 20 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso 0:01.385