Barcelona Practice 3: Vettel peaking at the right time
12 May, 2012
May 12 (Apex) World champion Sebastian Vettel flirted with the top of timing screens in FP1 and FP2, but in the final free practice of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend the Red Bull driver was fastest and appears to be peaking at exactly the right time while McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes struggled with various issues, while midfield teams Sauber and Williams showed impressive pace.
Vettel left it until the very end of the session, to pop in a 1 minute 23.168 seconds – the best lap of the weekend thus far around the Circuit de Catalunya in hotter than normal conditions for this time of the year in Barcelona.
Showing a good turn of speed on the soft tyres was Pastor Maldonado who ended second fastest in the Williams FW34, but teammate Bruno Senna failed to match the pace set by the Venezuelan by a whopping one second – ending the session 14th.
The surprise package this weekend, and the ones to watch in the race, were the Sauber pair who topped the timing screens 1-2 with a few minutes to go. Both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez quick and comfortable in the Ferrari powered C31. Kobayashi was third fastest and Perez fifth.
Splitting the Sauber boys was Mark Webber who went fifth quickest, suggesting that the Red Bull pair are going to be the team to beat in Spain once again – both in qualifying and the race. They have won the last two grands prix in Barcelona, Vettel last year and Webber in 2010.
Again out paced by one of their customers, Ferrari’s best was Fernando Alonso in the F2012 who ended the session sixth quickest with teammate Felipe Massa about half a second slower, down in 11th.
The last time a Ferrari started from pole position was with Alonso at the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.
Rookie Jean-Eric Vergne, another one to shake up the form book, was seventh fastest in the Toro Rosso also ending the hour session half a second up on his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Jenson Button was fastest of the Mercedes powered drivers in eighth, the Friday pace setter struggling with grip as the team seek the fine line between understeer and oversteer on the MP4-27. From the outside it appears that the Woking squad have taken a step backwards in the space of one day. Lewis Hamilton was 16th on the timing sheets, his best lap seriously baulked by traffic.
The McLaren duo will have to toil hard and do something special if they are to notch up the team’s 150th pole position.
Also falling out of the front running zone were the Lotus pair, with Kimi Raikkonen ending the session ninth while teammate Romain Grosjean did two timed laps in his E20 before it spluttered to a halt with an electrical problem. he did nottake part again. Like McLaren, the Enstone boys find themselves on the back-foot after starting the weekend strongly just 24 hours earlier.
Nico Rosberg rounded out the top ten in his Mercedes, he was also the last driver within one second of Vettel’s best. Team mate Michael Schumacher was 17th.
The final free practice of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend only helped confuse any type of prediction ahead of qualifying and the race. A day earlier McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and of course Red Bull all looked like contenders.
Now, ahead of qualifying Red Bull are outright favourites for pole position, and even annexing the entire front row – with the likes of Sauber and Williams possibly springing a big surprise at the expense of the grandee teams.
Spanish Grand Prix: Food for thought:
Nine of the last 10 Spanish Grands Prix have been won from pole position, and 16 of the past 21, making it the most predictable race on the calendar.
- Last year’s broke a sequence, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber on pole and Vettel winning on a four stop strategy.
- Webber is chasing a third Spanish GP pole in a row.
- Double world champion Alonso is the only Spaniard to have won a Formula One Grand Prix. He won his home race in 2006 with Renault.
- Michael Schumacher has won the Spanish Grand Prix more times than anyone else (six). He is also the only driver to have won in Barcelona without starting on the front row (in 1996).
- Ferrari are the most successful team at the Circuit de Catalunya with seven wins in 21 years.
- Six different drivers have won over the past six years.
Free Practice 3 – Saturday, 12 May 2012
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:23.168||13|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:23.578||0.410||16|
|12||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:24.323||1.155||17|
|15||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:24.599||1.431||15|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:28.373||5.205||13|
|24||10||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||No time||2|
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