German GP - Third practice
The third and final practice session ahead of the all-important qualifying session in Germany produced the usual confusing order as some opted to simulate the first and second rounds of qualifying with a light fuel load, while the expected front-runners
lapped the 5.148km circuit with race fuel on board to simulate the third and final round of qualification.
It was Lewis Hamilton again at the sharp end of the timesheets in his updated McLaren Mercedes as he and the team undoubtedly worked hard to ensure the MP4-24 package is strong enough to make the final round of qualifying. The defending champion recorded the best time of the race weekend in the cool conditions and was two-tenths clear of his nearest rival. Fernando Alonso
languished way down the order in his Renault in the latter stages of the session before a final low fuel run on the option tyres vaulted him second fastest behind Hamilton. Like his former McLaren team-mate, Alonso’s target will be to make the top ten in qualifying.
Felipe Massa led the way at Ferrari with the third fastest time while Sebastian Vettel was fourth best in the leading Red Bull Renault. Vettel lapped four-tenths slower than pace-setter Hamilton and this is almost certainly the quickest time with race fuel on board. Team-mate Mark Webber was again just a fraction slower in the sister RB5. Kimi Raikkonen
recorded the sixth best time in the second Ferrari ahead of the Toyota-powered trio of Jarno Trulli
, Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima. Nick Heidfeld
rounded out the top ten in the leading BMW Sauber but a repeat of this in qualifying is unlikely as the Hinwil-based team do not seem to have much pace despite the new diffuser on the disappointing F1.09.
Championship leader Jenson Button
and team-mate Rubens Barrichello
are not showing a great deal of pace for Brawn Mercedes at the moment as they recorded the 11th and 14th fastest times respectively. Without a doubt the duo were lapping with race fuel on board to simulate the final round of qualifying. However as was the case at Silverstone, the cooler conditions do now suit the BGP 001 package in terms of generating tyre temperature and subsequently grip.
Timo Glock and Adrian Sutil split the Brawn pair for Toyota and Force India with Giancarlo Fisichella
15th in the second VJM02. Towards the back of the field Nelson Piquet was 15th in his Renault ahead of Sebastien Buemi in the leading Toro Rosso Ferrari. Robert Kubica was just 18th in the second BMW Sauber ahead of the struggling Heikki Kovalainen who does not have the same updates available as McLaren team-mate Hamilton at the moment. Sebastien Bourdais was slowest in the second Toro Rosso.
Hamilton may have the headline fastest time in this session, but it the Red Bull Renault team that seem strongest ahead of qualifying while Brawn Mercedes are surprisingly some distance behind… We shall see…