As the ongoing rumbling over the exhaust regulations hammered on behind closed doors, championship leader Sebastian Vettel has once again declared himself as a favourite to take yet another pole position this season by ending the third practice session of the British Grand Prix as the quickest overall driver.
Although showers and drizzle continued to impact proceedings, drivers had their first opportunity for at least some dry-weather running this weekend ahead of qualifying, and today’s 60-minute session was frenetic.
A shower in the middle of the session looked as though it would put pay to any hopes of some late, low-fuel qualifying-style runs, but it passed the circuit quickly and the running could continue as normal.
With two minutes to go, Vettel clocked a lap of 1:31.401 to displace provisional leader Fernando Alonso by just 0.063 seconds. He looked set to post a quicker lap the next time round, but the heaven opened once again to thwart his hopes.
Despite losing some running mid-session while a mechanical issue was attended to in the team garages, Mark Webber went third-fastest – ahead of Felipe Massa – after being among the quickest in the first half of the session.
A quick run late in the session saw Pastor Maldonado take a surprise fifth-fastest on the timesheets, almost half-a-second quicker than sixth-fastest Jenson Button in the McLaren.
The sister McLaren of Lewis Hamilton was down in 13th-fastest, behind both Saubers, Mercedes GP entries and both Force Indias.
Michael Schumacher finished the session eleventh-fastest after also losing time in the pits with mechanical issues, while the Renaults continued their anonymous run this weekend: Vitaly Petrov was 15th-fastest, while Nick Heidfeld was only eighteenth-quickest, just 0.4 seconds faster than Heikki Kovalainen.
It was another Noah’s Ark formation at the bottom of the timesheets, with the Lotus’ leading the Virgin Racing and HRT entries. Vitantonio Liuzzi ended the session slowest behind rookie team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, having suffered a spin on his out-lap.
2011 British Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||1:31.401||17|
|2.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.063||20|
|3.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.428||12|
|4.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.768||20|
|5.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 1.095||20|
|6.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 1.555||18|
|7.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 1.613||20|
|8.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 1.643||23|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 1.863||21|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.022||22|
|11.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 2.150||11|
|12.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 2.259||22|
|13.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 2.441||16|
|14.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 2.504||21|
|15.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 2.641||22|
|16.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 2.928||20|
|17.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 3.398||20|
|18.||Nick Heidfeld||Renault R31||+ 3.421||21|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus Renault T128||+ 3.824||21|
|20.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||+ 5.504||21|
|21.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 6.213||18|
|22.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 6.667||20|
|23.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 6.888||19|
|24.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 7.167||17|
[Image via Sutton Images]