Vettel fastest in pre-qualifying at Japanese GP
(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
SUZUKA, Japan (AP) Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel has set the fastest time in Saturday's pre-qualifying practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix, edging teammate Mark Webber.
Vettel finished 0.235 seconds ahead of Webber at the Suzuka circuit, indicating Red Bull has a strong chance to secure pole position later Saturday.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa was third followed by seven-time champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes, who announced on Thursday that he will retire at season's end.
Championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was 11th while McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton faced heavy traffic late in the session and had to settle for 13th.
Nico Hulkenberg crashed at the second Degner curve and spun sideways into a barrier, damaging the front wing of his Force India car.
Vettel, a two-time winner in Japan, is seeking his fourth consecutive pole at Suzuka. The German won the previous race in Singapore and is just 29 points behind Alonso in the standings with six races left.
Hamilton's McLaren teammate Jenson Button also experienced traffic and wound up eighth. Button won last year's race in Japan.
Apart from Hulkenberg, HRT's Narain Karthikeyan damaged his car going off track and missed part of the session as the team worked to repair damage.
Updated October 5, 2012