Button heads McLaren 1-2 in final practice

15/10/2011
NEWS STORY

Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track tem0perature is 28 degrees. While both of yesterday's session were affected by the rain it is unlikely that this will be the case today or tomorrow. It is bright and sunny however, Lotus warns that there will be a brief shower at 13:00 - about an hour before qualifying - with a 20% chance of further rain before 17:00.

Lewis Hamilton led the way in yesterday's second session, the drier of the two, but in all honesty we learned very little, other than for the fact that the circuit - and its surroundings - appears pretty much unchanged since last year's inaugural event.

That said, one change is the installation of an arrow and warning light to alert drivers at Turn 1 of cars leaving the pitlane and additional lights at the end of the pitlane to warn those drivers leaving the pits.

Within moments all twenty-four drivers have posted times, however, while most head back to the pits, Senna, the Mercedes duo and Red Bull duo stay out. Of the five drivers Schumacher goes quickest (1:40.471) however, this is soon beaten by Vettel with a 39.799.

As the Mercedes and Red Bulls return to the pits, they are replaced by twenty of the remaining drivers.

Hamilton goes second (39.830), ahead of Webber, Schumacher and Rosberg, while Senna slips to eighth. The Brazilian, who is celebrating his twenty-eighth birthday today, subsequently spins 180, lightly clouts the wall, and has all manner of problems getting the car pointing in the right direction. When he does however, he returns directly to the pits.

Having gone quickest in all three sectors, Hamilton goes quickest overall, the McLaren driver posting a 38.210. Moments later, teammate Button makes it a McLaren 1-2 when he posts a 39.507.

Ricciardo grinds to a halt at the start of the pitlane, necessitating members of his crew to come and rescue him.

As Massa splits the McLarens with a 39.293, Schumacher goes quickest in S1, the German quickest here in yesterday's opening session. The Mercedes driver is on the option (supersoft) tyre, one of the first to make the switch. Due to the total lack of dry running yesterday, drivers are facing a heavy and much changed schedule today.

As Renault changes the front wing on Senna's car, Lotus reveals that the DRS is not working on Kovalainen's car.

Buemi (options) goes quickest overall in S1, subsequently crossing the line at 39.964 to go ninth. The Toro Rossos feature a surprising number of upgrades this weekend.

Now down in seventh position, Vettel complains of a vibration.

Alonso goes third and Massa fourth, the Ferraris looking good here, particularly in the second sector. However, it is McLaren which clearly has the edge here.

With 13:45 on the clock, it's: Hamilton, Button, Alonso, Massa, Schumacher, Sutil, Rosberg, Vettel, Petrov and di Resta.

In the Ferrari garage crew members curiously form a wall in an attempt to prevent cameras getting a clear shot of Alonso's car, the Spaniard running a new front wing.

As Schumacher locks up and runs wide, he is informed that teammate Rosberg's tyres are still holding up well after ten laps.

With the clock counting down and the longer runs completed, drivers still rueing yesterday's lack of dry running, the final phase of this session will be all about preparing for qualifying.

Having posted a strong time in S1, Vettel loses time in S2 behind Alguersuari, the German making his frustration clear. Elsewhere, Button goes quickest in S1, and again in S2, as teammate Hamilton looks to be on an equally fast lap.

Button improves to 37.297 but remains second, having lost time in traffic in S3, while Hamilton loses time in S2. Still stuck behind Alguersuari, Vettel finally passes the Spaniard on the main straight and shakes his fist.

At the death, having held back in order to find some clear air, Button bangs in a 36.910 to go quickest, the Englishman out-pacing his teammate by 0.289. Interestingly, Button, who was on the supersofts, managed his quickest time after four or five competitive laps.

The session ends with Button quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Webber, Alonso, Massa, Schumacher, Petrov, Sutil, Vettel and Rosberg.

Di Resta is eleventh, ahead of Alguersuari, Buemi, Kobayashi, Perez, Senna, Maldonado, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Trulli, Glock, d'Ambrosio, Liuzzi and Ricciardo.

While the McLarens really do appear to have the edge here, not to mention being able to post quick times even after five laps on the supersofts, the traffic in the final stages meant we weren't able to see what Vettel can really do. Which sets us up nicely for qualifying.

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Published: 15/10/2011
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