Vettel tops Practice 3 in Valencia

Red Bull Racing left it late to top the final European Grand Prix practice session, as Sebastian Vettel squeezed Robert Kubica’s time by just over a tenth of a second.

The top of the time sheets were hotly contested throughout the session, with the top twelve separated by less than a second. Fernando Alonso found himself fastest for the majority of the hour and looked confident on Bridgestone’s Prime tyre. However, the local hero could not maintain his stranglehold, as both Red Bull drivers delivered a late flurry of fast laps on the softer option, and eventually settled for fifth.

Although Vettel was first to better the Ferrari driver’s time, he soon found himself outdone by his team-mate Mark Webber – who was also appeared to have plenty in reserve as the Milton Keynes-based squad continue to run its F-duct system.

Robert Kubica once again impressed in his Renault R30 – equipped with its newly-developed blown-diffuser system. The Polish driver found himself on top for a period during the final few minutes of the session, but was eventually outdone by Vettel, who managed to go fastest with a last gasp effort.

Adrian Sutil was yet another surprise in the session, making the most of his Force India to set the fourth fastest time. The pace of the Silverstone-based team was further underlined by team-mate Tonio Liuzzi, who carried over the momentum from his drive in Canada to finish eighth.

However McLaren appeared to struggle throughout the hour as Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton found themselves down in ninth and tenth respectively. However, the Woking outfit may well have plenty in reserve and the true pace of the MP4-25 will surely not be unveiled until qualifying. Hamilton himself was delayed for a considerable period of time, as his mechanics worked on a problem with the front left corner of the car.

Rubens Barrichello gave Williams plenty of encouragement in sixth with Nico Rosberg, who had been right at the sharpend of the field for Friday’s two sessions down in eleventh for Mercedes – nearly eight tenths off the pace.

Rosberg time was still considerably better than team-mate Michael Schumacher, who found himself a distant fifteenth.

Pos  Driver         Team                    Time              Laps
1.   Vettel         Red Bull-Renault        1:38.052            14
2.   Kubica         Renault                 1:38.154  + 0.102   17
3.   Webber         Red Bull-Renault        1:38.313  + 0.261   13
4.   Sutil          Force India-Mercedes    1:38.500  + 0.448   17
5.   Alonso         Ferrari                 1:38.513  + 0.461   18
6.   Barrichello    Williams-Cosworth       1:38.623  + 0.571   15
7.   Liuzzi         Force India-Mercedes    1:38.676  + 0.624   17
8.   Massa          Ferrari                 1:38.686  + 0.634   16
9.   Button         McLaren-Mercedes        1:38.769  + 0.717   16
10.  Hamilton       McLaren-Mercedes        1:38.816  + 0.764   15
11.  Rosberg        Mercedes                1:38.822  + 0.770   15
12.  Buemi          Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:39.050  + 0.998   16
13.  Hulkenberg     Williams-Cosworth       1:39.105  + 1.053   15
14.  Petrov         Renault                 1:39.113  + 1.061   16
15.  Schumacher     Mercedes                1:39.222  + 1.170   14
16.  Alguersuari    Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:39.392  + 1.340   18
17.  Kobayashi      Sauber-Ferrari          1:39.527  + 1.475   16
18.  de la Rosa     Sauber-Ferrari          1:39.699  + 1.647   16
19.  Kovalainen     Lotus-Cosworth          1:41.303  + 3.251   19
20.  Trulli         Lotus-Cosworth          1:41.428  + 3.376   20
21.  Glock          Virgin-Cosworth         1:41.955  + 3.903   17
22.  di Grassi      Virgin-Cosworth         1:42.354  + 4.302   18
23.  Senna          HRT-Cosworth            1:42.611  + 4.559   18
24.  Chandhok       HRT-Cosworth            1:42.622  + 4.570   19