Vettel on top in Sepang after FP3

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing finished top in FP3 ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

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