Red Bull driver fastest in shortened final practice ahead of team-mate Mark Webber.
Sebastian Vettel continued to dominate preparations for the Indian Grand Prix, by topping the timesheet in a shortened final practice session at the Buddh International Circuit with a lap of 1:25.332, half a second clear of team-mate Mark Webber.
Vettel’s closest non-Red Bull rival was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who finished 0.773 down. Fourth place in the session was taken by Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Lotus’ Romain Grosjean fifth.
The session had been due to start at 11am local time but was delayed by 15 minutes as smog reduced visibility across the circuit, conditions deemed unsuitable for the medical helicopter to take off should there be a serious incident.
The delay was extended to half an hour before a revision from race control signaled that a 40-minute session would begin at 20 minutes past the hour.
The shortened timeframe led to a mixed programme with most teams still opting for altered run plans on the medium tyre before a late switch to the soft compound.
Red Bull Racing chose differently, however. Webber began with a run on the prime medium tyre, but Vettel returned to the garage after an installation lap and after a short wait headed out on track on the option soft Pirellis with 26 minutes left on the clock.
At that stage, with the rest of the field on medium tyres, McLaren’s Sergio Perez was in P1, with a time of 1:27.136. Vettel blasted past that benchmark with his first flying lap on the options – logging a time of 1:25.332, just under four tenths quicker than his best soft-tyre time from FP2. Webber then took on option tyres and slotted into P2, 0.560 behind his team-mate.
As the bulk of the field retired to their respective garages to make the switch from prime tyres, Vettel headed out on track for another run on the options.
This time, however, his stint was much longer. Given a target time by his pit wall, the defending champion set about testing the limits of the soft tyre with a long stint that abandoned pursuit of performance in favour of research for the race. It was a similar story behind him and unusually for FP3 the times did not change much during the final moments as the focus appeared to shift to exploring the durability, or not, of the soft tyre.
With Grosjean fifth, sixth place in the session went to Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. He was followed by Force India’s Paul Di Resta and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg. Ninth place went to McLaren’s Jenson Button with Lewis Hamilton tenth in the second Mercedes.