2013 Abu Dhabi GP P3: Sebastian Vettel heads another Red Bull 1-2 at Yas Marina
Hamilton within striking distance but Ferrari continue to toil
By James Galloway at the Yas Marina Circuit. Last Updated: 04/11/13 8:23am
Sebastian Vettel confirmed his status as the clear favourite for yet another pole position by once more setting the pace in Practice Three at the Abu Dhabi GP.
The new four-times World Champion is chasing a seventh successive victory this weekend and all indications so far at the spectacular Yas Marina circuit are that he could remain an immovable object at the head of the order after he topped Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber for the second successive session on Saturday afternoon.
Vettel's pacesetting time of 1:41.349 set on his final soft-tyre lap was 0.222s faster than Webber, who improved his own time at the last, managed but Yas Marina specialist Lewis Hamilton, who has never qualified off anywhere other than the front row at the circuit, did suggest he could at least keep that record up as he all-but matched Webber's time in third place with an improved performance in the W04.
Underlining Mercedes' single-lap speed was Nico Rosberg, who was a tenth further back in fourth having earlier led the way on the medium tyres, with Lotus's Romain Grosjean the only other driver within half a second of Vettel.
For Ferrari though it proved another dispiriting session as Fernando Alonso once more finished outside the top ten in 11th place, over one second off the pace. The prospect of a neither red car making Q3 for the first time since the 2012 European GP is appearing to loom large in to view given Felipe Massa continues to fare even worse, the Brazilian down in 14th.
The F138 is seven tenths of a second slower than the lead Red Bull alone through the 5.5km circuit's twisty, and challenging, final sector of corners.
The Scuderia's woes look likely to let in McLaren for one of their better qualifying sessions of the year, Jenson Button ending up a strong sixth in P3 ahead of Sauber duo Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.
After a series of explosive interviews on Friday night in which he threatened to skip the final two races of his Lotus career if he wasn't paid, Kimi Raikkonen, last year's Abu Dhabi victor, once more trailed team-mate Grosjean down in ninth place. Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne completed the top ten.
While Sergio Perez (18th) lost his final preparations on the medium tyre after badly flat-spotting the rubber on his McLaren during the early stages of running, Marussia's Jules Bianchi spun out of the session and damaged his car's lef-rear after getting it wrong rounding the sweeping turn two.