Rapid Rosberg fastest in disrupted third practice

Rapid Rosberg fastest in disrupted third practice

Cooler temperatures welcomed drivers for the third and final practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, and it was Nico Rosberg who topped the time sheets for the third time. However it was a heavily disrupted session that saw two red flags and a number of big repair jobs for the teams.0694LW1D8066

It was an overcast start to Saturday’s Formula One running, with blue skies in one direction and grey clouds looming in the other. Teams and drivers returning to the race track after Friday’s ‘rest day’, the break from practice enabled them to sieve through the data in more detail, giving them even more knowledge into where they need to improve and what changes can be made.

Mercedes had dominated the first two practice sessions, particularly Nico Rosberg who put his W04 car on top of the time sheets in both 90 minute sessions. With just 60 minutes of practice to get the set-up and balance just right, it was a busy and productive session for many.

As the green light went out, a number of cars emerged to start their running including the likes of Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg and Mark Webber. However most of them returned to the pit garages after the obligatory installation lap.

Someone who didn’t dive into the tight pit lane was Esteban Gutierrez, he was the first to put a lap time in with a 1m26.137. The Sauber continued on to better his opening effort by over five seconds. With six minutes of the session been and gone, all drivers apart from Daniel Ricciardo had emerged to lap the circuit, the Aussies session was hampered slightly by an early oil leak. Charles Pic was the second driver to set a lap time, with his team-mate Giedo van der Garde joining him swiftly after.

It was a slightly slower start to the session than anticipated but with dark clouds closing in on the circuit, which soon changed. Like the first practice session, it took the drivers a few laps to re-find a rhythm and burn off the fuel, causing the times to tumble lap by lap. Vergne and Hulkenberg traded fastest lap times for a few minutes before the big guns emerged for their turn at the top.

Vettel moved to the top after his third timed lap with a 1m15.791, narrowly beating Pastor Maldonado’s attempt. Drivers looked to be completing some longer runs early on in the session and the track became packed full, traffic started to become an issue with 35 minutes left on the clock. Mercedes showed their hand shortly after but Grosjean had yet more contact with the Monaco barriers.

Under-braking for the Nouvelle chicane, the Frenchman clipped the inside barrier as he turned left. This caused his tyre to delaminate and caused minor damage to the left hand side of his E21. Nico Rosberg improved his lap time to go second, narrowly missing out on Vettel’s best time.

With 25 minutes of the session remaining, Felipe Massa suffered a huge accident at the first corner. It was a heavy impact with the barrier but the Brazilian managed to climb out if his disintegrated Ferrari F138 unscathed. His front tyres locked up under braking for the first corner and he collided with the left hand barrier, before continuing on to make contact with the exit barrier at Ste Devote.

Ferrari were given a big task to fix the car in time for qualifying, with significant damage to all corners of the car. The session restarted with 18 minutes on the clock and a number of cars filed out to continue their disrupted running. However it didn’t take long for another car to make contact with the wall, Adrian Sutil lost control of his Force India on a bump at Massenet and severely damaged the right hand side of his car. The yellow flags were brought out but running continued without interruption.

With the long runs ending, drivers strapped on a new set of tyres to complete some qualifying runs. Grosjean was the first to improve his time, going fastest with a best time of 1m15.051. Rosberg soon improved on that time by six tenths of a second, with Alonso going nine-tenths down on the Mercedes driver. Kimi Raikkonen out-braked himself into Mirabeau and had to find reverse, a tricky thing to do in a Formula One car. Nico Rosberg tagged the barrier at Portier but managed to continue on without any damage.

Drivers continued to push the limits of the track but to do that, they needed clear air. Finding a gap is always tricky in Monaco and Vettel had to back off one of his fastest laps due to the usual Monte Carlo queue. The yellow flags emerged yet again at for another Grosjean crash, the back-end of his car stepped out and he hit the barrier with the left rear, similar to his accident on Thursday.

With that, the red flag emerged and the session finished with Nico Rosberg finishing fastest with a best time of 1m14.378 to make it three out of three in Monaco, Grosjean set the second fastest time but ended his session in the wall. The Frenchman was six tenths down on the leading Mercedes and two tenths faster than Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull Racing RB9.

Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen were next up ahead of Webber, Di Resta, Maldonado and Hulkenberg who rounded out the top 10. The McLaren duo of Perez and Button finished just outside the top 10 and ahead of the Toro Rosso pairing.

Sutil and Massa dropped to 15th and 16th after their earlier accidents, with Gutierrez and Bottas proving to be the slowest of the mid-field runners. Pic and van der Garde both bettered the Marussia drivers during the third and final practice session.

Pos Driver                Team                  Time        Gap         Laps
 1. Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m14.378s               22
 2. Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1m15.039s   + 0.661s    13
 3. Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m15.261s   + 0.883s    17
 4. Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m15.286s   + 0.908s    17
 5. Lewis Hamilton        Mercedes              1m15.311s   + 0.933s    20
 6. Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1m15.380s   + 1.002s    19
 7. Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m15.550s   + 1.172s    20
 8. Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m15.594s   + 1.216s    17
 9. Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1m15.861s   + 1.483s    15
10. Nico Hulkenberg       Sauber-Ferrari        1m15.926s   + 1.548s    25
11. Sergio Perez          McLaren-Mercedes      1m15.958s   + 1.580s    23
12. Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m15.976s   + 1.598s    19
13. Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m15.976s   + 1.598s    21
14. Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m16.060s   + 1.682s    16
15. Adrian Sutil          Force India-Mercedes  1m16.068s   + 1.690s    12
16. Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m16.105s   + 1.727s    8
17. Esteban Gutierrez     Sauber-Ferrari        1m16.427s   + 2.049s    26
18. Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault      1m16.933s   + 2.555s    17
19. Charles Pic           Caterham-Renault      1m17.902s   + 3.524s    20
20. Giedo van der Garde   Caterham-Renault      1m18.102s   + 3.724s    20
21. Jules Bianchi         Marussia-Cosworth     1m18.706s   + 4.328s    22
22. Max Chilton           Marussia-Cosworth     1m19.228s   + 4.850s    22

Image courtesy of Sky Sports F1

Jack Leslie

Jack Leslie

Jack Leslie is a freelance motorsport and Formula 1 journalist. He has been part of the Richland F1 team since the very start and made his F1 paddock debut for the website at the 2014 Austrian Grand Prix. Jack also writes for Car Throttle, RumbleStripNews, Formula1Blog, PureF1 and F1 Plus, as well as running a popular blog.