Felipe Massa led a Ferrari 1-2 in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, underlining the improvements that the Italian team have made to their car for this weekend.
The Brazilian posted a 1:20.553 in the closing stages of the session edging out teamamte Kimi Raikkonen by a scant tenth of a second.
Ferrari, who have dominated the Spanish Grand Prix in recent years, are hoping that significant changes to their car for this weekend – including a new front and rear wing as well as a weight saving to support its KERS system – will bring them back into contention this weekend.
But the Italian team will be hard pressed to beat Brawn GP in Spain with Jenson Button looking ominously quick throughout the session. The Briton lapped third quickest in his upgraded BGP 001, ahead of Robert Kubica who hinted at a much needed improvement for BMW Sauber following a major aerodynamic upgrade to the F1.08.
Lewis Hamilton made good use of the softer compound tyres to go fifth quickest ahead of Timo Glock and local favourite Fernando Alonso.
Showers remain a possibility for Sunday’s race but the all crucial qualifying session later this afternoon looks
set to be spared from rain after the teams and drivers enjoyed sunny conditions in the final practice session.
Toyota’s Timo Glock was the first of the big-hitters to set a time. The German posted a 1:24.937 around the Spanish circuit as the other drivers waited for the track to rubber in.
Robert Kubica briefly held top spot before being usurped by a charging Felipe Massa whose lap time of 1:22.638 put him at the top of the timesheets half way through the session, ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Buemi.
As track conditions improved so did the lap times with several drivers setting flying laps at once. Rubens Barrichello broke into the 1m 21s with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel not far behind.
Felipe Massa confirmed Ferrari’s race pace by retaking the top spot with a 1:21.547 on the harder tyres.
Lewis Hamilton was the first driver to run on the softer tyres, slotting in second quickest behind Massa despite making a small mistake.
Timo Glock was also enjoying the softer tyres as he planted his Toyota at the top of the timesheets again on a 1:21.419, with just over ten minutes of the session remaining.
But nobody could touch Felipe Massa once the Brazilian made his switch to the soft rubber. His flying lap in the closing stages of 1:20.553 was out of reach for both Brawn GP drivers, not to mention his teammate Kimi Raikkonen who came to within a tenth of a second.
Nick Heidfeld was the only major casualty of the session. The German lost control of his BMW at Turn 12 and ploughed into the barrier, writing of his F1.08.
1 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:20.553 2 Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen Ferrari 0:00.082 3 Jenson Button Brawn 0:00.497 4 Robert Kubica BMW 0:00.686 5 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 0:00.793 6 Timo Glock Toyota 0:00.824 7 Fernando Alonso Renault 0:00.946 8 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren 0:00.966 9 Nico Rosberg Williams 0:01.041 10 Mark Webber Red Bull 0:01.076 11 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso 0:01.096 12 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 0:01.136 13 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 0:01.216 14 Nelson Piquet Renault 0:01.286 15 Rubens Barrichello Brawn 0:01.353 16 Kazuki Nakajima Williams 0:01.490 17 Adrian Sutil Force India 0:01.679 18 Giancarlo Fisichella Force India 0:01.767 19 Jarno Trulli Toyota 0:02.315 20 Nick Heidfeld BMW 0:02.904