The sun emerged for the third and final practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix, enabling teams to get testing their new upgrades after the delays of Friday morning. Felipe Massa ended the morning session in first place, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus.
60 minutes of track action kicked off with a flurry of activity. Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver out on track, followed by Paul Di Resta who attempted a practice start. The Scot’s start was mirrored by team-mate Adrian Sutil.
Nico Rosberg opened up the time sheets with a 1m29.468, however Lewis Hamilton displaced him swiftly on the hard compound tyre. The two Mercedes looked to be on longer runs after their times were beaten by the Caterham of Charles Pic, both Hamilton and Rosberg prioritising race pace in the early part of the session.
Aero paint was in demand for teams throughout the session, with plenty of new tweaks and updates to try out. However the first 15 minutes were not as busy as first predicted, with just five drivers setting a lap time. Gutierrez had some time at the top before the big teams emerged, Sebastian Vettel’s displacing the Mexican before Kimi Raikkonen had a stint at the front.
With 20 minutes of the session been and gone, there was a hive of activity out on track as drivers emerged to complete their first runs. Most chose to complete some low fuel runs on the hard tyre, Alonso proving to be the fastest of those drivers. The margins were close at the front as the halfway mark passed by, the home hero’s 1m23.006 was just 0.036 seconds faster than Romain Grosjean, with Raikkonen 0.093 seconds down on Alonso respectively.
After a rather quiet mid-part of practice three, the track action increased as focus switched to medium compound running. Alonso regained the top spot on his first medium compound run, gaining seven tenths to go fastest with a 1m22.254. Nico Rosberg went six tenths down on his first run before Hamilton bettered the German’s effort to provisionally hold second place. The Spaniard was not in the lead for long, Raikkonen went three tenths faster to prove Lotus are in the mix.
Webber moved up the field too, with Di Resta also impressing on his first timed lap. The circuit was typically busy as the chequered flag closed in, Vettel and Grosjean improving their times to move up the time sheets. Felipe Massa went to the top of the time sheets with five minutes remaining and stayed there by the flag fall, with a best time of 1m21.901 on the medium compound tyre.
Kimi Raikkonen ended the session in second place, just 0.006 down on the Ferrari. Webber and Grosjean were close behind, with the Aussie bettering his team-mate Sebastian Vettel who set the fifth fastest time. Alonso slipped to sixth after sitting pretty at the top of the time sheets for most of the session. Di Resta, Sutil, Hamilton and Vergne rounded out the 10.
Rosberg and Button finished just outside the top 10 after their final qualifying run, the McLaren team continue to struggle. This was even more evident after mechanical problems with Sergio Perez’s car, the Mexican ended the session down in 14th.
2012 race winner Maldonado failed to show the speed of 12 months ago, finishing FP3 in 15th. Charles Pic was the leading back-marker but the battle with Bianchi was close, Chilton and van der Garde rounded out the runners.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap Laps 1. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m21.901s 13 2. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m21.907s + 0.006s 14 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m22.044s + 0.143s 17 4. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m22.069s + 0.168s 13 5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m22.229s + 0.328s 17 6. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m22.254s + 0.353s 15 7. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m22.574s + 0.673s 11 8. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m22.729s + 0.828s 17 9. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m22.740s + 0.839s 24 10. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m22.759s + 0.858s 15 11. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m22.839s + 0.938s 26 12. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m23.151s + 1.250s 13 13. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m23.371s + 1.470s 21 14. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m23.373s + 1.472s 13 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m23.385s + 1.484s 17 16. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m23.388s + 1.487s 18 17. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m23.660s + 1.759s 16 18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m23.767s + 1.866s 17 19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m24.775s + 2.874s 18 20. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m24.793s + 2.892s 16 21. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m25.135s + 3.234s 17 22. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m25.250s + 3.349s 18
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic