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.
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
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