Vettel on top in Sepang after FP3
Having locked out the front row in Australia, Red Bull’s one-lap pace had already seen them widely tipped for a pole in Malaysia, and this afternoon’s final practice runs on the medium tyre hardened that view. However, the gaps at the front were incredibly small, with Vettel’s 1:36.435 only a tenth clear of the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and the Force India of Adrian Sutil. Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber completed the top four, also within two-tenths of the leader.
The session was run in dry conditions, with the field leaving the pitlane at the top of the hour, all using the orange-banded hard tyre. Some runners elected to stay out but the majority returned to the pits and did not re-emerge until ten minutes had passed. Kimi Räikkönen went to the top of the timesheet in the Lotus, only to be knocked down first by Hamilton and then Sutil.
On the hard tyre fast laps were in the 1m37s bracket but the leaderboard changed around in the second half of the hour as runners started to get into the 1m36s as they ran qualifying simulations on the medium compound. Vettel, who had been in last place before the switch climbed up into P6, before taking the top spot with three minutes of the session remaining.
Behind the top four, Australian Grand Prix winner Räikkönen was fifth fastest, though three-tenths adrift and unhappy with his car. Behind him came Paul di Resta in the second Force India, Jenson Button’s McLaren, Felipe Massa in the first of the Ferraris, Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes and Alonso’s Ferrari to complete the top ten.
2013 Malaysian Grand Prix free practice 3 times
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:36.435
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.568
3 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:36.588
4 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:36.613
5 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:36.806
6 Paul di Resta Force India 1:36.807
7 Jenson Button McLaren 1:36.822
8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.946
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.949
10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.302
11 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:37.359
12 Sergio Pérez McLaren 1:37.538
13 Nico Hülkenberg Sauber 1:37.685
14 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:37.690
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:37.936
16 Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber 1:38.294
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:38.376
18 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:38.425
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1:38.995
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:39.717
21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:40.209
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1:40.495