Vettel quickest in final Sepang practice
23 March 2013 – Sebastian Vettel set the pace in the third and final practice session at Sepang on Saturday afternoon, producing a time of 1:36.435 on a late Medium tyre run. The Red Bull driver led Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.133 seconds, while Force India's Adrian Sutil recovered from his Friday issues to complete the top three.
Following the rain interruption in second practice, most drivers promptly set about completing further race simulations on the Hard tyre as the session got underway. This was the area of focus for Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber, with the pair both describing intense degradation 24 hours ago. As the session wore on, the inevitable switch to Options arrived, with Vettel waiting longer than his rivals to take full advantage of a grippy track surface.
However, despite demonstrating strong one-lap pace, the Red Bull drivers' tyre degradation woes continued. Amid scorching early air and track temperatures of 34°C (93.2°F) and 46°C (114.8°F), both men had several off-track excursions during their respective Hard tyre runs and will head into qualifying with lingering concerns.
From second to fourth, Hamilton, Sutil and Webber were separated by just 45 thousandths, while Kimi Räikkönen encountered balance issues en route to fifth. The Finn aired his frustrations on his team radio system, leaving Lotus with some work to do ahead of qualifying. Paul di Resta backed up team-mate Sutil's pace in sixth, while McLaren's Jenson Button broke into the top ten for this first time this weekend.
After a substantial spell in his Ferrari garage, Massa managed to deliver the eighth fastest time of the session. The Brazilian, whose engine received attention in the early stages, wound up just ahead of Nico Rosberg, with team-mate Fernando Alonso a little over three tenths back after stating his intentions to claim a front row start.
At the back of the order, Charles Pic put Caterham ahead of main rivals Marussia, with the Frenchman lapping comfortably quicker than fellow countryman Jules Bianchi. This left Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton at the foot of the timing screens.
Saturday’s qualifying session at Sepang gets underway at 4pm local time (GMT +8) and can be tracked via the GPUpdate.net Live Report feature