Sebastian Vettel headed the third session at Barcelona this morning, with Red Bull teammate Mark Webber in tow.
The reigning champion only went with one run at the end of the session, only claiming the top spot in the dying moments.
Vettel’s quickest tour of 1:21.707, toppled Webber by a mere eight-hundredths of a second, a sign of may come in the later qualifying session.
Webber spent much of the practice swapping fast laps with Mercedes Michael Schumacher, before the Australian spread his wings late on.
Schumacher held on to 3rd spot in the end, albeit 1.35 seconds shy of the ultimate pace. It was the first time this weekend that Schumacher came home ahead of his fellow Mercedes runner, Nico Rosberg. The former Williams driver ran a solid 17 laps, registering a best of 1:23.397, leaving Rosberg 6th on the sheets.
In between the Mercedes duo were a pair of McLaren’s, led by Lewis Hamilton. Both of the silver-and-red machines took new gearboxes overnight – Hamilton and Jenson Button ran 13 and 14 laps respectively.
Ferrari also had to make some overnight changes, although these were enforced by the FIA. Following a complaint from a competitor, it was found their new spec rear wing was illegal, leaving the team to revert to the wing used up until the Turkish Grand Prix.
It is thought the new wing may have given their DRS a vast improvement, but shy of the revamped aero device, the red pair took 9th (Fernando Alonso) and 11th (Felipe Massa).
There was also plenty of work at Williams, as they removed the new floor, having felt the FW33 was worse off. With old parts re-instated, Rubens Barrichello split the Ferrari’s with a best of 1:24.318, while rookie teammate was three position further down, less than one-tenth slower.
The bottom of the pack revealed tales of woe for both Nick Heidfeld (Renault) and Narain Karthikeyan (Hispania).
Karthikeyan lost out during practice, thanks to a malfunctioning DRS, rendering him slowest, 7.85 seconds slower than Vettel; however Heidfeld’s problems were far more dramatic.
The Renault driver pulled off prior to turn nine, with the rear of his machine engulfed in flames. At this stage, it is unclear what started the fire, but it though a fuel overfill may have ignited, setting the machine ablaze.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m21.707s 6 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m21.791s + 0.084s 17 3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m23.057s + 1.350s 16 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m23.068s + 1.361s 13 5. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m23.214s + 1.507s 14 6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m23.397s + 1.690s 18 7. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m23.669s + 1.962s 17 8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m24.043s + 2.336s 18 9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m24.270s + 2.563s 11 10. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m24.318s + 2.611s 18 11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m24.322s + 2.615s 17 12. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m24.329s + 2.622s 19 13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m24.399s + 2.692s 17 14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m24.535s + 2.828s 16 15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m24.695s + 2.988s 18 16. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m24.722s + 3.015s 14 17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m25.223s + 3.516s 19 18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m26.236s + 4.529s 11 19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m27.000s + 5.293s 20 20. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m27.706s + 5.999s 20 21. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m28.330s + 6.623s 17 22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m29.057s + 7.350s 18 23. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m29.200s + 7.493s 6 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m29.562s + 7.855s 16