Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel has remained fastest in the dry conditions at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit, after the third and final practice session in preparation for the afternoon’s all-important qualifying hour. The German finished ahead of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, with Mark Webber 3rd.
After two sessions of mixed weather conditions at Spa-Francorchamps on the Friday, the teams’ and drivers’ began their final preparations during practice three in overcast conditions around the legendary Belgian circuit, with rain a serious threat overhead. Jules Bianchi became the first driver to take to the track for Marussia once the session got underway, with fellow countryman Romain Grosjean following him out in the Lotus. Despite the threat of rain throughout the session, the majority of the drivers elected to complete installation laps at first, before Pastor Maldonado produced the first timed lap of the day with a 01:52.479.
The benchmark at the top was quick to drop throughout the opening few minutes of the session, as the other Williams of Valtteri Bottas rose to the top with a 01:51.140. Sergio Perez momentarily stormed to the top for McLaren, before Valtteri Bottas quickly returned to the sharp end of the pack with a 01:49.806. Lewis Hamilton looked set to lower the benchmark for Mercedes on his first flying lap, however the 2008 World Champion out-broke himself at Turn 18 and ruined his chance to go fastest.
As more drivers streamed out onto the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in a bid to maximize the dry weather conditions and continue preparing for the all-important qualifying hour, Nico Rosberg also out-broke himself at Turn 1 and ran straight on. Whilst the German recovered from his minor mistake, Kimi Raikkonen rose to the top for Lotus with a 01:49.759. With the Finn asserting his authority over proceedings, his former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa ran extensively wide at Turn 9. The Brazilian driver only just avoided contact with the barriers, and managed to safely rejoin the track.
Once again Lewis Hamilton ruined a fast lap in his Mercedes, this time completely spinning his W04 at Turn 18. The Briton managed to keep his car running, and immediately returned to the pits with only the 5th fastest time with a 01:49.857. As the entire field continued with their preparations, Jean-Eric Vergne continued with his impressive form by producing the fastest lap of the session with a 01:49.479. The Frenchman remained at the top of the timing sheets for the majority of the session, with the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel slotting into 2nd position with a 01:49.756 shortly afterwards.
Nico Hulkenberg out-broke himself at Turn 5 and cut the corner as the session progressed, as the Adrian Sutil became one of the first drivers to opt for Pirelli’s medium tyre compound. The German immediately lowered the benchmark on the softer rubber with a 01:49.135, which was quickly bettered by the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso with a 01:48.432. Nico Rosberg momentarily rose to 2nd for Mercedes, before Felipe Massa made it a Ferrari 1-2. Esteban Gutierrez impressed greatly by rising to 3rd in the Sauber, before Mark Webber split the Ferraris with a 01:48.533 as the qualifying simulations entered full swing.
As the session entered its final minutes Sebastian Vettel silenced his opposition with a 01:48.327, catapulting himself to the top of the timing sheets ahead of his Championship competitor Fernando Alonso. Pastor Maldonado ran wide after out-braking himself at Turn 18 as the checkered flag emerged, signaling the end of the third and final practice session at Spa-Francorchamps. The teams’ and drives’ now have only a few hours to assess the data before the all-important qualifying hour which will form the grid for tomorrow’s 44-lap Belgian Grand Prix.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m48.327s 16 2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m48.432s +0.105s 14 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m48.533s +0.206s 16 4. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.776s +0.449s 15 5. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m48.788s +0.461s 15 6. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m48.882s +0.555s 13 7. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m48.930s +0.603s 18 8. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m48.967s +0.640s 14 9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m48.993s +0.666s 16 10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m49.008s +0.681s 17 11. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m49.035s +0.708s 15 12. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m49.046s +0.719s 17 13. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m49.122s +0.795s 15 14. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m49.177s +0.850s 15 15. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m49.226s +0.899s 14 16. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m49.471s +1.144s 14 17. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m49.478s +1.151s 19 18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m50.418s +2.091s 14 19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m51.416s +3.089s 15 20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m51.800s +3.473s 18 21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m52.221s +3.894s 17 22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m53.507s +5.180s 18
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