Kubica makes his mark in FP3; Heidfeld quickest

BMW ChinaOutside title hopeful Robert Kubica showed his hand in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix after lapping within a whisker of championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

Team mate Nick Heidfeld affirmed BMW Sauber’s aggressive intentions this weekend to go quickest.

Hamilton, who set the pace on Friday, dominated the one hour session up until the final few minutes when the drivers bolted on soft tyres in qualifying trim.

That saw Heidfeld, recently confirmed by BMW for 2009, vault to the top spot, edging out Hamilton and Kubica by just over 0.050s, while Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren was fourth fastest.

McLaren’s rivals Ferrari had a low key session with Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen spending much of the hour in the mid-field before winding up twelfth and thirteenth.

Fernando Alonso, another man to watch this weekend after his back-to-back victories in Singapore and Fuji, could only muster sixteenth, but will doubt hoist his R28 into the mix in the all-crucial qualifying session.

The last few minutes of final practice has tended to act as a show ground for those drivers intending to adopt aggressive strategies in qualifying.

BMW Sauber’s presence on the timing sheet will no doubt attract the attention of Lewis Hamilton and McLaren.

Canadian Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica finds himself still in contention for the world championship, albeit twelve points adrift of Lewis Hamilton, after the Briton and his chief rival Felipe Massa were both dealt drive through penalties in Japan a week ago.

Also at the sharp end of the timing sheets were Jarno Trulli in fifth for Toyota ahead of Nico Rosberg (Williams), Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Racing).

Rosberg’s Williams team-mate Kazukia Nakajima and Renault’s Nelson Piquet round out the top ten.

Mark Webber dropped out of the running with only fifteen minutes to go after his Red Bull’s Renault V8 caved in on the back straight in a cloud of smoke.