World 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?ï?íC 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.
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