Kimi Raikkonen carried through his Friday top-of-the-times status to Saturday morning's last practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, the Ferrari man once again leading the way with a best of 1:36.100. But McLaren was in hot pursuit, Fernando Alonso...
Kimi Raikkonen carried through his Friday top-of-the-times status to Saturday morning's last practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, the Ferrari man once again leading the way with a best of 1:36.100. But McLaren was in hot pursuit, Fernando Alonso less than three hundredths behind in second and Lewis Hamilton just over a tenth off for third. Felipe Massa's Ferrari completed the familiar top four.
As usual at the start of the session the pack made its way out for installation laps, only the Ferraris not putting in an early appearance. The humidity was, as on Friday, fairly high and the track temperature was in the mid forties. After 10 minutes the Spykers of Adrian Sutil and Sakon Yamamoto went back out, along with the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher.
The Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and the now-unpenalized Sebastian Vettel were next, then Jenson Button's Honda and Anthony Davidson's Super Aguri. Schumacher clocked 1:37.948 with Sutil and Trulli behind, over two seconds off. The BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld were next to return, then the second Super Aguri of Takuma Sato.
Rubens Barrichello caught up with teammate Button on track, while Liuzzi slotted into second, half a tenth off Schumacher. Trulli then went to the top, 1:37.728, and Kubica and Heidfeld took third and fifth respectively. Vettel posted fifth and Schumacher returned to the front, 1:37.587. Button and Barrichello scored sixth and seventh but were demoted by Heidfeld taking the sixth spot.
Meanwhile, Raikkonen was winding up for a hot lap and clocked 1:36.880 when he crossed the line, seven tenths up on Schumacher. The McLarens of Alonso and Hamilton were back on track, as were the Williams pair of Nico Rosberg and Alex Wurz, while Raikkonen lowered his time to 1:36.369 to leave Schumacher over a second adrift.
Alonso took second on his first flyer, four tenths behind Raikkonen, and Hamilton followed into third. Late to arrive on the time sheet were the Renaults, Giancarlo Fisichella 15th initially then Heikki Kovalainen 13th. That just left the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and David Coulthard to make their mark, and Massa who was about to do so. The Brazilian started with a lowly 18th.
At the front Raikkonen led from the McLarens and Toyotas, then came Rosberg sixth, Liuzzi seventh, Kubica eighth and Wurz and Vettel rounded out the top 10. Massa put in a more reasonable effort and jumped up to third, just marginally behind Alonso, and Kovalainen improved a couple of places to 13th. Coulthard finally arrived in 10th.
Massa was still gaining ground, up to second and just under four tenths off Raikkonen, then he closed the gap to two tenths. Webber was the last man to reach the time sheet about half way through, 14th. By that time the status quo had been resumed, the Ferraris and McLarens out front and the rest a second and more behind. Schumacher in fifth was just outside the second gap.
The session went fairly quiet for a while, the top 10 mostly static. Further down the list Barrichello posted 13th and Button 15th, Davidson in between the two Hondas. Heidfeld didn't appear to be having a much better day than he had on Friday, down in 17th, and Fisichella was even more tardy in 19th.
Alonso was the next to make a move, 1:36.298 of the Spaniard to take over the top and Hamilton went up one to third -- he, Alonso and Raikkonen were separated by less than a tenth. Alonso then lowered his time again, 1:36.126 to make the gap a more comfortable two and a half tenths. Meanwhile, Kovalainen was up to sixth behind Schumacher and Rosberg was seventh.
Hamilton and Raikkonen lapped in formation, trading fastest sectors and Raikkonen got the better of the McLaren, 1:36.100 while Hamilton stayed third. Webber popped up into seventh and Schumacher was whittling away at his fifth best time, finally cracking the one second barrier to manage eight and a half tenths off Raikkonen.
Davidson jumped up to 10th from the low midfield and Vettel followed into 11th. Button improved to ninth and with 10 minutes to go virtually everyone was in the pits. The quietness prevailed for a short while then Kubica bullied his BMW up to sixth and Heidfeld climbed 10 places from 18th to eighth. BMW does not appear to be very comfortable at the Shanghai track so far.
In the final couple of minutes Raikkonen clocked a every quick first sector then it went wrong in the middle, the Ferrari suffering some kind of failure and coming to a halt. Alonso and Massa were also on fast laps, Massa setting the fastest middle sector of all, but both backed off in the last and didn't improve. Coulthard was a very late climber to sixth.
It was nothing much different from Friday's sessions, with Raikkonen out front and Alonso close behind, then Hamilton and Massa, three tenths covering all four. Raikkonen's performances so far perhaps make him favourite for pole but it's really too close to call. Final top eight classification: Raikkonen, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Schumacher, Coulthard, Kubica, Kovalainen.