Barcelona, Spain, May 12, 2012 (AFP) - Red Bull's defending world champion Sebastian Vettel topped the times in the final free practice session Saturday ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old German snatched top spot with a fastest lap of 1min 23.168 seconds in the final minute of a closely-contested session that gave few hints about the likely outcome of Saturday afternoon's qualifying.
Red Bull will be seeking a third consecutive pole position in that contest with Vettel hoping to outpace Australian team-mate Mark Webber, who is looking to complete a hat-trick of Spanish poles.
Vettel's quick lap lifted him clear of second-placed Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado of Williams who had himself posted the fastest lap seconds earlier (1:23.336), having outpaced Japanese surprise package Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber.
Kobayashi was another driver who delivered a late surge as the teams switched to lower fuel loads and qualifying 'spec' in the final minutes of a session run in near-perfect conditions on a warm Spring day at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Webber was fourth fastest ahead of Kobayashi's Sauber Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez and two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne was seventh for Toro Rosso ahead of Briton Jenson Button of McLaren, who was the fastest man on Friday, with Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus ninth and German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes 10th.
Brazilian Felipe Massa of Ferrari was 11th while Briton Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 champion, was down in 16th place after his fast late run for McLaren was upset by traffic. Seven-time champion German Michael Schumacher was 17th for Mercedes.
After a day of inaction on Friday due to electrical problems, Indian Narain Karthikeyan was finally able to complete some laps and he finished with the 22nd best time for the Hispania team.
But it was a frustrating morning for one of the heroes of last month's Bahrain Grand Prix, Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, who was third in that race. He was left out of action this time due to a fuel pump problem.