Vettel quickest in final practice for Malaysian GP

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Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel looks set to be in the running for pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix after finishing quickest in the final free practice session.

The Red Bull driver posted a time of 1:36.435, edging out a charging Lewis Hamilton at the top after the Briton led for most of the session. Also in close contention were Adrian Sutil and Mark Webber, both of whom finished within two-tenths of Vettel’s time.

Although heavy rain had been forecast, Free Practice 3 saw the track basking in hot and sunny conditions, allowing the teams to make the most of the dry track ahead of qualifying later. Most of the drivers opted to focus on their longer runs on the harder tire before switching to the medium compound later on in the session. With around five minutes to go, Vettel posted the quickest time to take P1 from Hamilton.

Red Bull and Mercedes will be very pleased with the result, as will Force India, who finished 3rd and 6th ahead of both Ferrari and McLaren. Qualifying could see a dramatic change in the running order, but with the top ten separated by less than one second, it appears the battle for pole position is wide open.

Malaysian GP – Free Practice 3 Classification

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.435

2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:36.568 +0.133

3 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:36.588 +0.153

4 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.613 +0.178

5 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:36.806 +0.371

6 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:36.807 +0.372

7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.822 +0.387

8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.946 +0.511

9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:36.949 +0.514

10 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37.302 +0.867

11 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:37.359 +0.924

12 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.538 +1.103

13 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:37.685 +1.250

14 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.690 +1.255

15 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:37.936 +1.501

16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.294 +1.859

17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:38.376 +1.941

18 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:38.425 +1.990

19 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:38.995 +2.560

20 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.717 +3.282

21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:40.209 +3.774

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:40.495 +4.060

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.