Valencia Practice 3: Button finds his way back to the top of the timing screens
23 June, 2012
Jun.23 (Apex) In the wake of admitting after the Canadian GP, that he had “lost his way”, Jenson Button re-emerged by setting the fastest time in the final free practice session of the European Grand Prix weekend at the Valencia Street Circuit.
In scorching conditions the McLaren driver set his best time on the Pirelli soft tyre, after allegedly copying teammate Lewis Hamilton’s setup for the MP4-27, and delivering a typical error free, smooth Button trade mark lap of 1 minute 38.562 seconds – three quarters of a second up on the previous day’s best set by Sebastian Vettel – as track temperatures soared.
Button’s best time came late in the session, displacing Romain Grosjean from the top spot on the timing screens. The Lotus driver was second best by a mere 0.093 seconds, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen third quickest – the pair looking strong as they focus on improving their qualifying pace.
The surprise package of the weekend so far has been Force India, with both drivers showing impressive pace throughout the first three free practice sessions. In FP3 Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta were fourth and fifth respectively.
Fastest Ferrari powered driver was Sergio Perez, setting the fifth best time in the Sauber who was fractionally faster than Michael Schumacher, seventh fastest in the Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton eighth on the timing screens – five Mercedes powered cars in the top eight…
Felipe Massa was ninth in the Ferrari, with Pastor Maldonado rounding out the top ten.
Most drivers spent the bulk of the session on the harder medium-compound Pirelli tyres, choosing to bolt on the yellow band softs late in the session. Inevitably traffic was an issue with several of the top guns baulked during their hot laps.
Thus out of the top ten were the likes of two time Valencia winner Sebastian Vettel and local hero Fernando Alonso.
It was a hard luck session for Red Bull’s Mark Webber who spent a large part of the morning in the pit garage as the team toiled with what appeared to be a brake problem on his RB8 which curtailed his involvement in the session, to four laps.
With the sun shining brightly, temperatures soaring into the mid-30C zone and track temperatures expected to reach 40C, tyre management and extracting the maximum will be crucial in qualifying.
The contenders will be mindful of the fact that pole winner has gone on to triumph on race day in three out of four of the past races on the harbour-side circuit where overtaking – even in the DRS and KERS assisted era – is very tough.
McLaren will be aiming for their (highly elusive) 150th pole position in Valencia.
Subbed by AJN.
Practice 3 – Saturday, 23 June 2012
|4||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.819||0.257||17|
|5||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.892||0.330||17|
|13||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.434||0.872||13|
|19||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:41.282||2.720||4|
|21||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:42.758||4.196||14|
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