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Button quickest in FP3 as Alonso loses ground

NEWS STORY
24/11/2012

Lewis Hamilton was quickest in both of yesterday's session, however, the fact that teams were using 2013-spec tyres as well as the current rubber made it difficult to compare. That said, Hamilton, who was frustrated to spend so much time working on the 2013 tyres for a team he won't be with, was clearly the pace-setter, no matter what rubber he was using.

The Englishman was good on the hard, the medium and also with heavy fuel, while Alonso also showed good pace with a heavier fuel load.

Of course, this weekend isn't really about Hamilton, it's about the title fight between Sebastian Vettel and Alonso and thus far it's a tough one to call. The German was quicker in both sessions but that means little especially when one listens to the weathermen.

Though yesterday's sessions were run in bright sunshine and unusually hot conditions, some are claiming that it is 100percent that Sunday's race will be wet. Indeed, with dark clouds in the distance there is a good chance that we're going to see the intervention of the weather gods today.

Other than Hamilton and the title contenders, Mark Webber has looked good as have Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, while Michael Schumacher would dearly love to end his career on a high.

Based on the tow sessions yesterday it's tight, Hamilton, Vettel, Webber, Button and Alonso covered by just 0.366s. However, as we said, most of the best times were posted on the 2013 rubber.

With seven seats still to be filled for next season, this weekend is a last chance effort for some drivers to stake their claim, though by all accounts it is the size of the dowry they can bring next year as opposed to anything they might do on track to impress.

Five minutes before the start of today's session the air temperature is 28 degrees C, while the track temperature is 37. It's sunny, but there is plenty of cloud. It is also quite windy.

Not for the first time this weekend, Alonso, the hunter, looks calm and cool, Vettel, the hunted, looking somewhat anxious.

The lights go green and Kovalainen, one of those drivers yet to secure a drive for nest year, is first out, followed by Vergne, Ricciardo, Perez, Glock and Grosjean.

De la Rosa goes out on a set of tyres signed by his engineers and mechanics, a sad weekend for the Spaniard and his team.

Setting the stage for the remainder of the weekend, Vettel and Alonso leave the pits together, enjoying a playful little skirmish, much as they did yesterday. It looks like good clean fun, but the reality is that, like a pair of prizefighters, the two contenders are checking one another out, psyching one another out.

Rosberg posts the first time of the day, the German crossing the line at 20.153, his teammate posting a 22.570. Next time around the seven-time champ improves to 15.034 and his teammate to 15.308.

No, no, no…. we don't believe it, Capt No Grip, courtesy of the relatively high track temperature, says he has "amazingly good grip". Good grief, whatever next?

Kobayashi, who has set up a website in an attempt to raise the funding for a drive, goes third with a 15.527.

As Alonso chats with his engineers and Vettel gets a blast of cool air in his cockpit, Rosberg improves to 14.955.

Raikkonen pulls to the side of the track at T4 with smoke pouring from the back of his car, the Finn suffering an engine failure. All of which is sure to cause a few missed heartbeats in the Red Bull garage. Indeed, the failure means a busy couple of hours for the Lotus crew also as it battle to change Raikkonen's engine in time for qualifying.

As Perez goes fourth (15.597), ahead of Glock and Pic, Schumacher has a massive lock-up in T1.

On his first flying lap Hamilton posts 14.552 but is immediately usurped by his teammate who crosses the line at 14.419.

Senna makes full use of the massive concrete run-off at the corner names after his Uncle. Meanwhile, Vettel heads down the pitlane.

Hamilton improves to 14.184 but again Button goes quicker, the 2009 champ banging in a 13.917.

Vettel goes fourth (14.588) on his first flying lap, as Hulkenberg says his car feels much better today, it's like a "different car".

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