Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel set the pace in final practice for tomorrow’s British Grand Prix – but a late front wing failure will give his team cause for concern ahead of this afternoon’s qualifying session.
The German driver’s best lap of one minute 30.958 seconds was the best of the Silverstone weekend so far and he looked set to improve on that on his final run before the problem struck.
Heading into the revised Abbey turn, the nose of the Red Bull appeared to partially detach itself from the chassis, dropping the wing down and forcing the German off track.
Vettel recovered the car to the pits but there will be furrowed brows in the Red Bull garage when he heads out for qualifying this afternoon if the cause of the problem is not diagnosed.
Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber spent the bulk of the session concentrating a long-fuel runs but went out on a light load in the final five minutes and snatched second place, just 0.034secs further back.
The McLarens of home favourites Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button again looked off the pace despite the team’s decision to ditch their exhaust-blown diffuser for the remainder of the weekend.
Hamilton could manage only seventh, his time some 0.2s up on his best yesterday but still over half a second off the front-running Red Bulls.
Button was down in 12th, another 0.4 further back but again around 0.2 quicker than his best yesterday.
McLaren’s decision to abandon their new diffuser appears to have given them some performance gain but, on this evidence at least, not enough to challenge for pole position later today.
The two Britons each suffered two off-track moments today in a session which will do little to improve the mood in the McLaren camp.
The Ferraris looked on the pace, however, with Fernando Alonso keeping the Red Bulls honest with a strong third, just 0.143 behind Vettel, while team-mate Felipe Massa was fifth.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg claimed fourth, the German again outpacing compatriot Michael Schumacher, who was eighth.
The consistent Robert Kubica took sixth for Renault, while elsewhere there were problems for Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who set the 15th-fastest time before suffering a gearbox problem which could leave the German facing a five-place grid drop if it needs replacing.
At the rear, there was again problems for Lotus’ Jarno Trulli, who suffered with hydraulic issues for the second day in succession.