After sitting out Free Practice Two to repair chassis damage to his Marussia, Jules Bianchi was keen to make up for lot time, but as a result wouldn’t be bothering the timesheets much. Running a heavy fuel load in an effort to gain precious race data, Bianchi was noticeably ragged through 130R – his Marussia bottoming out dramatically on the peripheral section of the fast left-hander.
Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne was one man not taking things easy on his STR8, jumping hard on the brakes during his in-lap on turn eleven to perform a diff-slip ramp test. After the unreliability that saw both Toro Rosso’s retire in Korea, the team would be taking no chances before qualifying. Hulkenberg in the meantime was complaining of a “strange” exhaust note from his Sauber and requested to pit.
Grosjean initially headed the timesheets, before being usurped by the RB9′s of Webber and Vettel, who flatspotted a right-front tyre on his first timed effort. Fernando Alonso was doing everything he could to make up time throught the chicane, but appeared to be manhandling his Ferrari with cconsecutive inputs. Massa seemed more fluid, but his two-tenth advantage over his team-mate was gained via riding the curbs – not something that you’d want to repeat over fifty-three laps.
Grosjean too continued is penchant for curb-hopping, having a hairy moment at the Casino Triangle and adding to his astroturf collection. At this rate he’ll be able to charge Japanese golfers a surcharge to use it, but he still topped the times with a 1:32.707.
Work was still feverishly being carried out on the front of Sergio Perez’s McLaren, who had reverted to chassis number one after smacking both ends of the car in FP2 yesterday. He’d want to get out there quick as Lewis Hamilton was reporting a dramatic change in grip levels from yesterday.
A man in need of grip was Adrian Sutil. In an odd accident, his Force India appeared to lose grip on the exit of Spoon Curve with the back-end stepping out under power. It’s something you might expect on a saloon car with the shift in weight, but not an open-wheeler seemingly on rails. Sutil was lucky just to glance the left-hand barriers and lose as little as a nose cone.
Hulkenberg meanwhile remained in the pits while Sauber continued to work on fixing his exhaust.
With Red Bull and Mercedes concentrating on long runs, it looked as though it might be a Lotus, Ferrari top three. That was until pulled seven-tenths out on Grosjean and Alonso. Button was looking happier today in fifth. Rosberg attempted a late run wich was good enough for second, until the position was stolen by team-mate Hamilton.
Not many questions answered, but with cooler weather and a faster track, expect times to fall yet again this afternoon when we get down to the business-end of Saturday.
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