After McLaren’s domination of Friday, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari both stepped up their challenge in FP3.
Sebastian Vettel finished the session quickest, with a time of 1:14.442, just six-thousandths faster than Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton who was at the top of the order in the second half of the hour, had to settle for third, 0.270 seconds off top spot. Mark Webber was fourth in the second Red Bull, ahead of Pastor Maldonado, enjoying a better day for Williams. Felipe Massa was sixth in the second Ferrari, Michael Schumacher seventh for Mercedes, The Lotuses of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen were eighth and ninth and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten for Force India. The gap between first and tenth was around half a second.
The first failure of FP3 was Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes stopped at turn seven on his out lap. He had complained of clutch slip on his way out of the pitlane. The only other driver failing to maximise the final practice session was Jean-Eric Vergne. The Frenchman slid wide at turn one on his second flying lap, ran across the grass and collided – quite gently – with the barriers. At this point Vettel was the fastest man on track, followed in close order by Alonso, Massa and Schumacher. It stayed that way until the halfway mark when Lewis Hamilton returned to the top of the order. Vettel later pipped him by the smallest recordable margin on the timing screens: 0.001s.
That order changed around a lot in the final 15 minutes when the whole field abandoned their Soft tyres for a short run on the Supersoft compound. Alonso deposed Vettel by a quarter of a second, but the German hit back minutes later to retake the lead, again by a tiny margin: 0.006s. That would be the way it stayed to the end of the session.