Vettel quickest yet again in final US practice session

2012 United States Grand Prix third practice

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Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2012World championship leader Sebastian Vettel was fastest once more in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the United States Gand Prix. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, only two tenths behind the Red Bull driver, with Pastor Maldonado third and Fernando Alonso fourth.

Final practice began in similarly cold conditions to Friday’s morning session, with track temperature only 16??C as the pitlane lights went green. With the low temperature offering minimal grip, both Romain Grosjean and Timo Glock ran wide at the troublesome penultimate corner of Turn 19 at the end of their respective installation laps.

The Mercedes team mates of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher set the early pace and were the first cars to break the 1’40 barrier, with Rosberg quickest on a 1’38.221 after a quarter of the session had been completed. There was a close call between Schumacher and the Ferrari of Felipe Massa as Schumacher passed his former team mate around the outside of Turn 19 before entering the pits, barely missing the right-front of the F2012.

Just over twenty minutes into the session, a bizarre incident saw Sergio Perez collide with the Marussia of Charles Pic into the fast left-hand kink of Turn 7. Replays suggested that the McLaren-bound Mexican driver misjudged the closing speed to the Marussia ahead and ploughed into Pic’s left-rear wheel, pitching the Frenchman into a spin. Both cars continued back to the pits and the session was not interrupted.

At the midway point of the session, McLaren’s Jenson Button was fastest with a 1’37.659 with team mate Lewis Hamilton second. World championship contender Fernando Alonso did not set a time until just 25 minutes remaining in the session.

Jean-Eric Vergne ran into trouble and was seen pulling off to the inside of the circuit with what appeared to be right-front suspension damage after hitting a kerb. The yellow flags interrupted the timed runs of both Ferraris, who had spent the earlier half of the session in the garages.

With ten minutes to go and the yellow flags cleared, the majority of teams switched to the softer Medium tyres to run qualifying simulations. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel put in an impressive lap to take the top spot with a 1’36.490 – more than a second faster than the rest of the field at the time. But Vettel’s margin was not as wide as in yesterday’s sessions, as Hamilton’s lap of 1’36.748 meant he was only two tenths away from the Red Bull. Pastor Maldonado put in a quick lap to go P3, with Fernando Alonso in fourth, less than 0.7s shy of Vettel.

Romain Grosjean’s session was cut short due to a suspected gearbox problem, robbing him of a chance to complete any low-fuel runs in the final quarter of the session.

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
11Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’36.49018
24Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1’36.7480.25820
318Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1’37.0010.51121
45Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’37.1800.69021
58Nico RosbergMercedes1’37.2470.75724
66Felipe MassaFerrari1’37.2620.77227
72Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault1’37.2980.80818
815Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1’37.4150.92520
912Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’37.4951.00520
103Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’37.5381.04820
1119Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1’37.5691.07921
127Michael SchumacherMercedes1’37.7601.27021
139Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault1’37.7651.27526
149Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1’37.9531.46323
1516Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari1’38.5472.05723
1611Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1’38.6532.16322
1710Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’38.7532.26311
1817Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari1’39.6893.19912
1924Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1’40.4073.91723
2021Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1’40.7534.26319
2120Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1’41.0114.52119
2225Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1’41.4664.97619
2322Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth1’43.5637.07321
2423Narain KarthikeyanHRT-Cosworth1’44.0437.55323

2012 United States Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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15 comments on “Vettel quickest yet again in final US practice session”

  1. If the track continues like this, both the qualy and the race will be really interesting !

  2. From what I saw, the Red Bulls and McLarens found a pretty nice balance, something Ferrari couldn’t achieve. So Alonso will need to have some luck in the race/qualifying if he wants to have a realistic opportunity to win the championship in Brazil.

    1. Both Ferrari’s are ahead of Webber…

      1. Lap time doesn’t have anything to do with balance. Have you seen how Maldonado drifted around every single corner and still ended up in third place?

        1. Yeah, I agree. Maldonado looked more like he was competing in a Formula Drift event… good, solid lap from him though, confirming what I’ve suspected all year: he’s definitely got the speed & the Williams is a good car that’s not being driven to the best of it’s potential most of the time. Vettel is on it, as usual over one lap. Hamilton not too far behind. I think he’ll be challenging for the win if the Mac stays together. Alonso looks to have his hands full… oversteer everywhere. It doesn’t bode well for him that so many other cars are looking competitive, & Vettel looking all but certain to get the pole. The track should be a lot warmer come qualifying though, so I hope Ferrari manage to do something so that it’s not so difficult to keep the car pointed straight.

  3. Despite being quickest in all 3 practice sessions, frankly I don’t think Vettel will run away with this. Hamilton will be right up there in qualifying. In the race however, I can’t see Hamilton finish.

  4. Still might be an interesting race. I doubt Alonso and Massa will make it easy for Vettel to lap them each time has has to do it….

  5. Vettel will walk quali and the race. Hopefully it won’t be a Valencia 2011 style walk though.

  6. Bad news for the championship…

  7. Hmmmm, and I thought JB was going to nail it this time ….. I mean, faster than his team mate, what a dis :(

  8. Hamilton might be only hope now. But Mclaren would help it?

  9. Odd move by Perez. Pic was going slow, but he could have thought of the odds of a collision with a move like that.

    I wonder, if the Vernge icident didn’t happen, if we would have had the Ferraris any closer..

  10. Weird move from Perez but it looks innocent enough, just clumsy!

  11. Mysteriously, Kobayashi is nowhere to be seen on the times chart. There’s no 14th position there.

  12. There has been so many collisions between the drivers this weekend in practice. In addition to a very sloppy race in Abu Dhabi, this race will probably be sloppy as well.

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