Button tops final practice ahead of Lotus

© AP, 23 June 2012
© McLaren

McLaren driver Jenson Button was the fastest in the third practice session at the European Grand Prix on Saturday, followed by Lotus pair Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen.

Button, the 2009 champion, went out late on soft tyres to clock a lap time of 1 minute, 38.562 seconds on Valencia's winding 5.4-kilometer street circuit.

Grosjean, who was the first to switch from medium to soft tyres in the session, was 0.093 seconds adrift. Raikkonen finished 0.197 seconds off Button's pace.

Force India enjoyed another strong showing from Nico Hulkenberg, who followed up his second fastest lap from Friday's afternoon session with the third best time. Teammate Paul di Resta was next, just ahead of Sauber's Sergio Perez and seven-time champion Michael Schumacher in his Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton, Button's teammate and the overall points leader, had another modest session in recording the eighth fastest time. The Briton has now failed to break 1:39 in the three sessions.

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa was ninth and partner Fernando Alonso was 12th.

Red Bull, likewise, failed to impress in the final practice.

Sebastian Vettel, who won the race the past two seasons from pole position en route to winning consecutive championship titles, was 13th. The highlight of the hour-long session for the young German driver was avoiding hitting the wall in a tricky Turn No. 2 just as the chequered flag came out to save his mechanics from a busy afternoon.

His teammate, Mark Webber, drove only four laps due to mechanical issues with his vehicle.

The first 14 drivers finished within a one-second margin.

Qualifying for Sunday's race is set for later on Saturday.

After seven different winners in as many races, Hamilton leads Alonso by two points and Vettel by three in one of the most tightly contested seasons.


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