The final practice session ahead of the all-important qualifying hour traditionally sees most opt to complete simulated qualifying runs with low fuel and the softer option tyre. This morning in Valencia, the schedule was completely thrown out by a long stoppage which resulted in a
final five minute shoot out for the fastest time and very little time for the teams to evaluate their qualifying setups.
The session was shortened by just over 25 minutes after Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull ground to a halt on track, the Renault engine coating the circuit liberally with oil. After a long wait the session resumed with five minutes remaining and despite the quick dry cement dust covering the circuit from turn 18 to 25, a number of drivers made late gains.
The reality however is that it was all a bit of a lottery and it was Adrian Sutil who topped the timesheets in his Force India Mercedes with a best time of 1:39.143s around the 5.419km European Grand Prix street circuit. While the Silverstone-based team have various updates to the VJM02 package, Sutil will not be challenging for pole position this afternoon.
Kazuki Nakajima was second fastest in his Williams Toyota again showing the way to Nico Rosberg who was fifth fastest.
In between Robert Kubica was third in the leading BMW Sauber ahead of Heikki Kovalainen who completed just eight laps this morning in his McLaren Mercedes. Giancarlo Fisichella
was sixth fastest in the second Force India ahead of championship leader Jenson Button
, Lewis Hamilton in the new short-wheelbase McLaren, Jarno Trulli
and Romain Grosjean.
Illustrating that the times mean very little in this disjointed session, yesterday’s fastest man Fernando Alonso
was just 15th in the second Renault quicker than Mark Webber. However, at the rear of the field Luca Badoer continues his struggle to get up to speed as he stands in for the injured Felipe Massa and he faces the real prospect of starting his first race in a decade from the very back of the field unless he can find some much needed speed.