P3 report: Red Bull's turn for a 1-2
World Champions set pace; Alonso 11th, Hamilton 13th
By Mike Wise at Suzuka. Last Updated: 06/10/12 11:16am
Sebastian Vettel: Fastest in final practice session
Sebastian Vettel led Mark Webber as Red Bull dominated the timesheets in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday.
The World Champion lapped the 5.807km Suzuka circuit in a time of 1:32.136 seconds to go 0.235s faster than his team-mate.
Alongside Red Bull, McLaren appear the pacesetters this weekend but Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton ended the session eighth and 13th fastest respectively.
Both attempted to set faster times during the closing moments but their efforts were thwarted by traffic. Ferrari's Felipe Massa set the third fastest time ahead of Mercedes' Michael Schumacher.
Sauber pair Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi were fifth and sixth respectively, with Romain Grosjean (Lotus), Paul di Resta (Force India) and Pastor Maldonado (Williams) completing the top 10 alongside Button.
With conditions slightly cloudier than those on Friday, final set-up work was clearly more successful for some drivers than others.
Hamilton, who was second fastest in P2, was heard saying that he wanted to revert to an earlier set-up whilst Kimi Raikkonen struggled with the handling of his Lotus for the second day running.
The Finn, whose car also suffered a KERS problem on Friday, complained of a "really odd" feeling at the rear throughout and wound up 12th fastest. Lotus have already confirmed that they will not use their double DRS 'device' for the remainder of the weekend.
Only Mercedes were out during the early minutes, with Schumacher lapping in a time of 1:34.008s.
Maldonado took over briefly before first Button and then Hamilton lowered the benchmark by four tenths of a second.
Webber moved behind the McLarens, with Vettel over three tenths quicker than Hamilton after embarking on his first run in anger shortly before halfway.
Ferrari's first runs on the prime tyre, meanwhile, produced P7 and P8 respectively for Massa and Fernando Alonso.
With teams turning their attentions towards the option in the final 20 minutes, Mercedes were again first out, with Schumacher going top with a 1:32.918s lap.
It was at this point, however, that Nico Hulkenberg's session came to a premature end.
The Force India driver, who had a promising start to the weekend with the fourth fastest time on Friday, hit the barriers when his car left the track at Degner Two.
Hulkenberg appeared to carry too much speed into the corner, with his car then oversteering off the track before an impact that caused damage to its left-hand side.
Having his first run on softs as a result of his own shunt on Friday afternoon, team-mate di Resta moved third before the pacesetters re-appeared on softs in the closing minutes.
But both McLarens struggled to get a clear lap, with Hamilton forced to take prompt evasive action after bearing down on Charles Pic's slowing Marussia on the approach to the final chicane.
There were no such troubles for Webber and Vettel, though, and they respectively moved one-two before the latter leapfrogged ahead.
Massa also jumped up in the closing seconds, as did the Saubers.
It was a subdued hour for World Championship leader Alonso, who was 11th fastest over a second off Vettel's pace.