By Max Davies, F1 Correspondent
- Vettel and Webber again fastest for Red Bull
- Schumacher surprises with third fastest time
Sebastian Vettel’s preparations for a fifth consecutive pole position improved massively after the Red Bull driver topped final free practice prior to the start of qualifying for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
The German’s sensational 1m21.707s lap was all the more impressive as it was set on a single flying lap after problems with his RB7 experienced problems.
Managing a mere three installation laps before an issue resulted in the world champion returning to the pits. Despite only minutes remaining as he returned to the track, Vettel stamped his authority over the weekend with a lap 0.084s quicker than his team mate Mark Webber, but perhaps more telling, over 1.3s faster than Red Bull’s nearest rival - the Mercedes GP of Michael Schumacher.
Maintaining his strong form from yesterday, Webber dominated the morning’s running prior to Vettel’s lap, establishing a solid gap to the rest on both the hard and soft rubber.
The McLaren’s of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button claimed fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes GP and the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi and the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
The Russian’s team mate Nick Heidfeld could only manage 23rd after completing a mere 6 laps due to his Renault catching fire – the result of a hole in the complex exhaust system. Despite flames engulfing the rear of the car and licking the sides of the cockpit, the German was unhurt although it was thought unlikely the team would be able to ready the car for qualifying.
Spanish local hero Fernando Alonso could only manage ninth in the leading Ferrari after the team were forced to revert to their old rear wing design after the FIA deemed their new version to be illegal.
Rubens Barrichello closed out the top ten in the Williams and will be hoping to transfer his lap time into a tangible qualifying position this afternoon.