Hamilton fastest in final practice
Lewis Hamilton set the pace in final practice in Australia in a session which saw both Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher spin out.
By Mike Wise in Melbourne
Last Updated: 17/03/12 5:29am
Lewis Hamilton set the pace in final practice at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday in a session which saw both Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher spin out.
The McLaren driver underlined his team's credentials ahead of final qualifying with a fastest lap of one minute 25.681 seconds around the 5.303km Albert Park track.
Hamilton pipped Lotus's Romain Grosjean late in the session, with Red Bull's Mark Webber third fastest ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button.
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg ended the hour-long session fifth ahead of Schumacher and Vettel, who both ended up beached in the gravel.
Vettel's unwanted excursion came first, with the World Champion oversteering off the track at the Turn 6 right-hand bend.
"I'm stuck in the gravel," lamented Vettel, who said after Friday practice that he needed a step forward ahead of qualifying.
However, despite ending the session seventh fastest, he can reconcile himself with the fact that his time, a 1:26.211s, was the fastest set on Pirelli's medium tyres.
Schumacher followed him off the track in similar style during the closing moments of the session, the seven-times World Champion coming unstuck at Turn 9.
Both he and team-mate Rosberg were the early pacesetters, with Schumacher commenting at one stage that his car's DRS, which it has been revealed helps stalling to provide a further straightline speed boost, felt "too aggressive".
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, Sauber's Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10.
However, Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa ended the session down in 16th and 18th places respectively.
With teams running different programmes in practice which allow for varying levels of fuel, tyre usage - and DRS and KERS use complicating the picture further - the session did not necessarily offer a clear picture of relative performance.
That will come during qualifying to follow later on Saturday. However, the sight of Ferrari's drivers so far down the timesheets hardly helps dispel the consensus that they face a difficult weekend.
1) Hamilton 1:25.681s 18 laps
2) Grosjean 1:25.758 21
3) Webber 1:25.900 20
4) Button 1:25.906 17
5) Rosberg 1:25.929 23
6) Schumacher 1:26.078 14
7) Vettel 1:26.211 12
8) Maldonado 1:26.470 17
9) Perez 1:26.632 20
10) Ricciardo 1:26.723 17
11) Vergne 1:26.733 15
12) Raikkonen 1:26.737 19
13) Kobayashi 1:26.755 21
14) Hulkenberg 1:27.029 23
15) Senna 1:27.119 20
16) Alonso 1:27.323 19
17) Di Resta 1:27.428 22
18) Massa 1:28.023 19
19) Kovalainen 1:28.341 19
20) Petrov 1:28.702 11
21) Glock 1:30.728 13
22) Pic 1:31.225 14
23) De la Rosa 1:3.114
24) Karthikeyan 1:33.261 13