Sebastian Vettel topped the final practice session before qualifying today, with only five tenths separating the top nine drivers.
Vettel set a 1.36.435 which was just good enough to beat Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Hamilton set his time earlier in the session while Vettel along with team-mate Mark Webber practiced their long runs, languishing down the timesheet for most of the session. Webber would end up fourth, showing encouraging signs for Red Bull as the clouds once again hover for qualifying this afternoon.
Speaking of encouraging, Adrian Sutil and Force India once again showed they may put in a surprise result with the third quickest time. Sutil was second for the majority of the second before dropping down the field, and then jumped back up the time sheets to be only one tenth of Vettel’s fastest time. Paul di Resta also showed pace for the team, finishing in sixth, one thousandth of a second off yesterday’s fastest man Kimi Raikkonen.
Jenson Button finally put his McLaren in the top ten by finishing in seventh place. Encouragingly for the team he was only four tenths off the fastest time, and ahead of both Ferrari’s of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso. Massa again topped his team-mate in eighth, with Alonso in tenth.
Nico Rosberg couldn’t match it with Hamilton but still finished in ninth place, showing that Mercedes too are within striking distance of a good result this weekend. Like McLaren, Williams also showed some improved pace with Pastor Maldonado in 11th and Valtteri Bottas in 15th.
Sergio Perez still can’t crack the ten as he set the 12th fastest time, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean who remains a long way off his team-mate. Esteban Gutierrez was nearly a full second slower than his fellow Sauber of Hulkenberg, while once again the Toro Rosso’s struggled to match the mid field, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo in 17th and 18th again.
In the back of the field, Charles Pic took the honours, beating out Jules Bianchi and his team-mate Giedo van der Garde. Max Chilton brought up the rear of the field again, four seconds off the pace.
It looks like there could be another wet qualifying session with rain forecast and clouds hovering over Sepang, with a wide variety of teams showing promising pace as the shoot out for pole is only hours away.
(Images copyright Sutton & Getty Images)