Vettel sets the pace in final practice

Vettel sets the pace in final practice

A crazy final practice session for tomorrow's German Grand Prix culminated in home hero Sebastian Vettel blasting his way to the top of the standings.

The 12 teams and 24 drivers were bracing themselves for another wet run when rain hit Hockenheim just four minutes before the start of the hour-long programme.

Although heavy, it proved mercifully brief as it relented several minutes later, but with the threat of more in the air it prompted the drivers to venture out.

Adrian Sutil, who finished bottom of the timesheet after failing to set a time as his Force India lost drive on its second installation lap, skidded across the grass on his opening outing given the wet conditions.

The Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, along with Renault's Vitaly Petrov, all then later ran wide under braking at the hairpin.

The rain, though, never did return and in the final 15 minutes as the track dried and on the faster, softer option tyres, the lead changed hands a remarkable 14 times.

Mark Webber was the first of the leading contenders to hit the top with a lap of just under 81 seconds in his Red Bull.

To underline how quickly the circuit came to the drivers, by the time the chequered flag fell on the session, Vettel had shaved almost six seconds off his team-mate's time.

The 23-year-old blazed around the 4.574km track in one minute 15.103secs, over a second quicker than yesterday's best from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso who had to settle for second today.

All the other major players - McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and the Ferraris of Alonso and Felipe Massa, led the way at some stage.

But it was Vettel who came out on top, and now a qualifying battle between the big three beckons, with Red Bull clearly favourites to make it 10 pole positions from 11 races this season.

Alonso eventually finished 0.284secs adrift, followed by Webber and Massa, Rosberg and then championship leader Hamilton in sixth, but 1.1secs behind Vettel.

As for reigning champion Button, he was down in 13th, almost two seconds off the pace come the end.

Sandwiched between the two Brits were Schumacher, Williams' Rubens Barrichello, Robert Kubica for Renault, the second Williams of Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Buemi.

Just above Sutil without a time were Virgin Racing duo Lucas di Grassi and Timo Glock in 22nd and 23rd, both over eight seconds down.

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