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Vettel sets blistering pace in third session

NEWS STORY
26/03/2011

In recent weeks the media - particularly the BBC - has been full of doom and gloom with regards McLaren's hopes of fighting Red Bull and Ferrari this season. Yesterday however, on the basis of its performance - particularly in the second session - the media would have us believe that the Woking outfit has rediscovered its mojo.

Whether this is true or not should become clear over the next couple of hours, indeed, we should soon discover the answer to a whole load more questions, not least is Hispania actually going to contest the opening race and will Virgin qualify within 107%, the British team seemingly caught out by the pace of its rivals.

The big questions that still need answering concern the tyres and new rules, particularly in terms of the DRS (movable rear wing), however, here also we should hopefully learn more in the coming hours… and also tomorrow. That said, the initial signs are that Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel look more than capable of defending their titles.

As we await the green light that signals the start of the session the air temperature is 18 degrees C and the track temperature is 21 degrees. It remains grey, but warmer than yesterday. While there are none of the black clouds that threatened yesterday there is a blustery wind across the main straight.

Heikki Kovalainen gets proceedings underway, the Finn followed on to the track by Sutil, Kobayashi, Buemi, Alguersuari, Petrov, di Resta, Glock, D'Ambrosio and Trulli.

Tyre options are hard (prime) and soft (option), the teams have one set of each for this session.

Five minutes into the session and all but Rosberg and the Hispanias have been out. It's understand that Liuzzi's car is ready while his teammate's is "almost" ready.

Rosberg finally heads off down the pitlane for his installation lap, the German having been out-paced by his teammate yesterday. He returns to the pits, drivers to the end of the pitlane, makes a practice start and heads off on another lap.

Fourteen minutes into the session, Glock is the first driver out for a second run. As the German posts the first 'competitive' time in S1, Liuzzi heads down the pitlane in the first of the Hispanias.

Glock crosses the line at 1:35.394 as Liuzzi pulls off track just after Turn 3. Elsewhere, Glock heads off on to the grass at Turn 15. "I touched the brake, the gearbox went into neutral and the engine stopped," Liuzzi informs his team.

Petrov takes the top spot with a 31.119 as Button runs wide at Turn 3 after locking up and badly flat=spotting his front tyres. Perez briefly goes quickest only to be leapfrogged by Petrov with a 28.385. Heidfeld goes third ahead of Buemi, Maldonado, Hamilton and Glock.

Petrov goes quickest in all three sectors crossing the line at 27.709. Heidfeld improves to second and Schumacher third.

A 27.337 sees Vettel go quickest as Maldonado is stranded in the gravel at Turn 6. In the Williams garage, Sam Michael looks singularly unimpressed.

A piece of the left front wing flies off Heidfeld's Renault as the German runs over the rumble strip. Elsewhere, Rosberg posts 27.493 to move up to second.

Alonso's first lap sees the Spaniard post a 37.5213 however, next time around he improves with a 32.906.

Back on track, Button posts 27.624 to go third, ahead of Petrov, Heidfeld and Kobayashi.

Halfway through the session, Kovalainen, Sutil, Webber and the Hispania duo have yet to post a time.

Alonso improves to seventh with a 28.029 as Sutil is told that his KERS has failed. On his first flying lap Webber goes fifth with a 27.883. Sutil is now told that his KERS is working again.

Webber goes quickest with a 26.993 - the first driver to break the 1:26 barrier. In the pitlane Barrichello climbs from his car, not a good session for Williams.

Button, on the option tyre, goes quickest in the first two sectors finally crossing the line at 25.961. Webber improves with a 26.159 but is still on the prime. Buemi improves to third and Alguersuari fifth.

Perez is crawling down the pitlane, indeed, he is passed by a couple of cars. Button goes quickest in S1 but loses half-a-second in S2. Vettel (prime) goes third with a 26.671 then improves with a 25.327.

With fifteen minutes remaining, Alonso goes quickest in S2 crossing the line at 26.121 to go third.

It's very hard to tell the difference between the option (yellow) and prime (silver) tyres despite Pirelli's colour coding system.

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