October 26th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel continued to set the pace in final practice for the Indian Grand Prix, lapping the Buddh International Circuit in 1 minute 25.33 seconds, over half a second quicker than second-placed Mark Webber and four tenths of a second quicker than his own fastest time from FP2. Fernando Alonso was third for Ferrari, with Nico Hulkenberg an impressive fourth for Sauber.
The start of the session was delayed due to poor visibility that prevented the medical helicopter from taking off. Initially a 15 minute delay was announced, and then an additional 15 minute delay, but then the start of the session was brought forward by 10 minutes to make for a total of 20 minutes lost to the conditions. As a minumim gap of 2 hours is required between Free Practice 3 and qualifying, the FIA had no choice but to shorten the one-hour session to 40 minutes.
The shortened session meant there was always plenty of on-track action, as the teams had to squeeze an hour's worth of practice into 40 minutes. Red Bull chose to sacrifice some medium tyre running time and instead focused on the soft tyre, with both drivers switching to the option tyre early in the session, doing a qualifying simulation and then a high-fuel race start simulation.
Sebastian Vettel's session-topping time came on his first soft-tyre lap, and considering how far ahead of the field he was (Alonso in the fastest non-Red Bull car was seven tenths off the pace) that pace is ominous, particularly as the track would have continued to evolve through the session and would therefore have yielded more grip by the time most of the drivers used the soft tyres.
Alonso has to finish second or better to have a chance of keeping the championship fight open until next week's race in Abu Dhabi. He showed this morning that the Ferrari has some pace, which he will be hoping to use to good effect in qualifying to set up a strong race.
Mercedes and Lotus seemed to disappear into the midfield in final practice, which suggests they were more concerned with race setup than qualifying setup. Romain Grosjean was fifth fastest for Lotus, but was over a second off the pace, while Kimi Raikkone was 11th fastest, a further three tenths behind his team-mate. Nico Rosberg was eighth fastest in the leading Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton tenth.
Qualifying starts at 14:00 local time in New Delhi.