Sebastian Vettel topped the shortened final practice session ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix, the reigning world champion staking his claim to a hat-trick of pole positions at the Buddh International Circuit.
Vettel set a time of one minute 25.332, once again leading team-mate Mark Webber, whose best time of the session was half a second slower than his team-mate’s session topping effort, with the two Red Bull drivers completing a clean sweep of the practice sessions.
Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari set the third fastest time of the day, the Spaniard making an improvement late in the session with a qualifying simulation on the soft tyres. However, Alonso’s best was two-tenths of a second down on Webber’s time and a mammoth seven-tenths of a second off his German rival.
Nico Hulkenberg continued to impress in the Sauber with the fourth fastest time, ahead of Romain Grosjean in the Lotus and the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa.
Paul Di Resta put on a strong showing for Force India at the team’s home race with the seventh fastest time ahead of Nico Rosberg – who was the highest placed Mercedes – and Jenson Button in the McLaren.
Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes rounded out the top ten.
The start of the session was delayed by 20 minutes as a smoggy haze restricted visibility that prevented the medical helicopter from taking off.
As a result, the hour-long session was shortened to 40 minutes and saw a flurry of activity when it got underway as cars jostled to get out on track to get as much valuable running under their belts as possible.
Webber and Alonso topped the times early on in the session but Vettel stamped his authority on his rivals when he headed out on his first serious run with a little under half an hour of the session to go, the German bolting on a set of soft tyres and going a full 1.6 seconds quicker than Alonso on that first run to set his benchmark time of the session.
That benchmark time extends Vettel’s session-topping run around the 5.1 kilometer track, located on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi, to all the way back to the third practice session ahead of the country’s inaugural race in 2011, boding well for the soon-to-be four time world champion to clinch his third straight win on Indian soil.
Image courtesy Octane Photographic