Sebastian Vettel vaulted to the top to the timesheet in the closing moments of the final free practice session in Barcelona to deny Williams’ Pastor Maldonado a moment in the sun ahead of qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.
For much of the hour Sauber’s Sergio Pérez had been in charge of the session. The Mexican driver claimed top spot early on using the Hard tyre but was later eclipsed when Nico Rosberg took on the Soft tyre. The Mercedes man’s lap was quickly bettered by Jean-Eric Vergne as he too opted for the Softs and then both were again surpassed by Pérez, the Sauber this time shod with Soft rubber to give the Mexican a lap of 1:23.742.
That lap stood until the final stages of the session when a clutch of drivers exchanged best laps. Pérez’s team-mate Kamui Kobayashi was the first to show, but his time was quickly bettered by Mark Webber. Then it was Maldonado’s turn, the Venezuelan slotting into P1 with a lap of 1:23.336. Normal order was resumed in the final seconds, however, as Vettel struck with a final lap of 1:23.168 to beat out the Williams driver by 0.168 seconds.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean hit trouble at the start of the session, being forced to pull over after just two laps with a fuel pressure problem. Timo Glock too was forced out of the session, though the Marussia driver had banked 16 laps and a best time of 1:27.689 before he stopped on track.