McLaren set P3 pace
Hamilton fastest in final practice
Last Updated: 14/04/12 6:35am
Lewis Hamilton led Jenson Button as McLaren went fastest in final practice ahead of qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.
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Hamilton set the fastest time of the week so far, a lap of 1:35.940 seconds, around the 5.451km Shanghai International Circuit, with Button 0.123s further back.
Mercedes pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were third and fourth fastest respectively, with Red Bull's Mark Webber fifth and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel ninth over a second off the pace.
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado was P6 ahead of Sauber pair Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, with Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen completing the top 10.
Temperatures during the hour-long session were about six degrees warmer than during the drizzly conditions on Friday when many drivers complained of a lack of grip, particularly at the front end.
Fewer cars were running wide as a result, although Rosberg got out of shape through Turn 9 at one stage while Hamilton locked up at the end of the long straight after setting the fastest time.
Rosberg and Webber were the early pacesetters while Hamilton's first runs on the medium tyre were about three tenths down.
Button, meanwhile, who had struggled to get his tyres working during the opening sessions, was two tenths further back.
Vettel's first representative time bumped him up to third while Schumacher climbed from sixth to P1 when he became the first of the frontrunners to switch to softs with 20 minutes remaining.
Rosberg, following close behind, immediately went a tenth quicker, with Button eventually going three tenths clear after two laps on the yellow-walled tyre.
His team-mate set the ultimate pace with less than five minutes to go and with McLaren also proving quickest in each sector, they will head into the remainder of the weekend with high hopes.
However, their hopes of securing a third straight front row lockout have already taken a hit given that Hamilton's car has had a gearbox change, meaning he will start the race from sixth place on the grid at best.
Current Drivers' Championship leader Fernando Alonso ended the session 15th fastest, three places ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa.
Elsewhere, Paul di Resta was 13th fastest, two places behind Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.