2011 Japanese Grand Prix (Rd 15, Free Practice 3, Oct 8th, TV Notes)

Suzuka. © Creative Commons / Will Pittenger.

Jenson Button topped the third practice session before the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

The McLaren ace set a best of 1:31.255, giving the Briton a half-second advantage over teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Button initially headed the pack during his Prime tyre run, only to be bettered by the Mercedes pair (led by Michael Schumacher) as the moved to the soft Pirelli options.
As the rest of the field started running softs, Button reclaimed the top spot – a position he would hold to the chequered flag.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel lined up the quickest beyond the McLaren pair. The reigning champion held a two-tenths advantage over both Ferrari’s (Fernando Alonso, 4th; Felipe Massa 6th) and fellow-Red Bull pilot Mark Webber in 5th.
While Vettel and Alonso enjoyed relative quiet sessions, both Webber and Massa suffered mechanical and handling difficulties, leaving shy of their respective team leaders.

Following their brief stint at the top of the times, both Mercedes fell to 7th (Schumacher) and 8th (Nico Rosberg), some 1.4 and 1.6 seconds off the pace respectively.
Although, the gap to the top three teams remains in earnest, Mercedes can be confident in the fact they still hold a lead over the chasing squads, with Renault and Force India very much at the forefront.

Indeed Vitaly Petrov (Renault) and Adrian Sutil (Force India) filled out the top ten, ahead of the charging Toro Rosso duo, led by Sebastien Buemi.
It wasn’t all good at Renault – substitute pilot Bruno Senna crashed his R31 into the barriers exiting Spoon corner prior to the halfway mark, bringing out the red flag for eight minutes. The Brazilian ended the morning in 17th position.

The Sauber’s ended the sixty-minute practice 13th (Kamui Kobayashi) and 14th (Sergio Perez), although it came at a price. The Swiss squad broke the Friday night curfew for the first time this year, as they worked on aerodynamic changes on the C30.
However, they still fared better than Hispania, whose experienced lead, Vitantonio Liuzzi, suffered another dismal day at the hands of the F1-11. After completing precious few laps on Friday, the Italian pulled off the circuit not long into his run, with a hydraulic pressure failure.

Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
 1.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1m31.255s
 2.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      1m31.762s  + 0.507s
 3.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1m32.122s  + 0.867s
 4.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1m32.279s  + 1.024s
 5.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1m32.401s  + 1.146s
 6.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1m32.429s  + 1.174s
 7.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1m32.725s  + 1.470s
 8.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1m32.878s  + 1.623s
 9.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               1m33.058s  + 1.803s
10.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1m33.424s  + 2.169s
11.  Sebastien Buemi     Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m33.469s  + 2.214s
12.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m33.545s  + 2.290s
13.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1m33.818s  + 2.563s
14.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1m33.836s  + 2.581s
15.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1m33.990s  + 2.735s
16.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     1m34.321s  + 3.066s
17.  Bruno Senna         Renault               1m35.389s  + 4.134s
18.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     1m35.651s  + 4.396s
19.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         1m36.327s  + 5.072s
20.  Heikki Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault         1m36.912s  + 5.657s
21.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       1m37.938s  + 6.683s
22.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1m38.011s  + 6.756s
23.  Daniel Ricciardo    HRT-Cosworth          1m38.355s  + 7.100s
24.  Tonio Liuzzi        HRT-Cosworth          1m41.097s  + 9.842s

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