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Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets as McLaren controlled proceedings in final practice ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix. As the 2008 Champion carries a grid penalty into qualifying, Jenson Button is poised to grab his first pole position for the Woking team. Sebastian Vettel hit traffic while Mercedes filled places three and four.
Crucially, there was no rain on the horizon as the final hour of practice commenced at 11 o’clock. With higher ambient and track temperatures as well, the teams hope that these conditions are more representative of those for tomorrow’s 56-lap race.
There were few incidents; a number of drivers ran wide at both the first and last corners, but Paul di Resta’s end-of-session scare was the largest moment of the session. Caught out by the second of two significant bumps in the braking zone of the Turn 14 hairpin, the Scot’s Force India ran down the outside kerb before taking to the run-off area. The West Lothian man was fortunate to avoid the Armco barriers.
McLaren are Ferrari were last to send their drivers out for flying laps, with the first times of Hamilton, Button, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso coming almost halfway through the session. It was the English team which continued to set the pace, with others only topping the timesheets during the interim switch to Pirelli’s quicker, yellow-mark Soft tyre compound. Button was quickest ten minutes before the chequered flag, with Hamilton then setting the pace with his best effort of 1:35.940. Incidentally, his five-place grid drop comes because of a gearbox change.
With Mercedes-engined cars locking out the top four, as Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher made the most of their Super DRS, Mark Webber led the Red Bull charge from fifth position. World Champion Sebastian Vettel found himself ending the session only ninth; after changes were made to his rear suspension, specifically the rear torsion bars, the German encountered traffic on his final run with the Soft tyre. It was an even worse scenario for Ferrari, finishing up in only 15th and 18th spots.
Pastor Maldonado, Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi demonstrated more strong pace for Williams and Sauber, but Lotus appears to be struggling in Shanghai; Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean could only muster up tenth and 12th places, sandwiching the Force India of Nico Hülkenberg in the process.
At the tail end of the field, Vitaly Petrov finished ahead of Caterham team-mate Heikki Kovalainen as the Finn returned to the pits with a broken front wing. Timo Glock wound up 21st for Marussia, with John Booth’s team confirming that his nose cone problem of Friday - which caused a heavy crash at Turn 1 - was not due to a mechanical failure.
Chinese Grand Prix Qualifying begins at 2pm local time (BST +7) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
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