Nico Rosberg has narrowly emerged as the fastest driver in a closely-fought final practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, with the Mercedes driver just edging out Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari pairing of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso for top spot. The top-four were covered by just five-hundredths of a second.
The session was red-flagged in the closing minutes after a contentious incident between Sergio Pérez and Pastor Maldonado, which led to the latter crashing out of the session less than a lap later.
Maldonado chopped across the bows of the Mexican at the pair disputed track position at Portier, and just a lap later it was Maldonado who crashed after clipping the inside wall at Casino Square. The winner of the last Grand Prix in Spain bounced across to the outside barrier, plucking his left-rear wheel off his Williams FW34. His team has a mountain of repairwork to complete ahead of today’s qualifying session, while many tip he will be summoned to the FIA Stewards’ office to explain himself.
Just minutes before, fans saw Paul di Resta’s Force India limping to the pits with a damaged front end after the Scot lost his car under braking for the Nouvelle Chicane.
Up at the sharp end of the field, it was Rosberg who would emerge on top, narrowly edging out an impressive Felipe Massa, who finished the session in the giddy heights of second-fastest on the timesheets.
Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both clocked late efforts to move into third and fourth place respectively.
Romain Grosjean – tipped by many as the most likely to claim pole and the win here – finished up fifth-quickest in his Lotus, finishing ahead of the McLaren pairing of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, neither of whom was able to execute a traffic-free lap in the session.
Michael Schumacher finished the session eighth-fastest, and he’ll be looking for a strong qualifying effort in light of the five-place grid penalty he’s carrying for his collision with Bruno Senna at the Spanish Grand Prix, while Pérez and Mark Webber (unable to have a clean lap) round out the top ten.
Kimi Räikkönen – deprived of much practice running so far this weekend – finished up twelfth-fastest in the second Lotus F1 entry.
This afternoon’s qualifying session looks set to be an intensely-fought affair with a number of possible candidates challenging for top honours. And although the weather remained dry for the morning’s running, there is still the possibility of rain this afternoon, which could really spice things up. Expect a few surprise results…
2012 Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:
|1.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:15.159||13|
|2.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:15.197||+ 0.038||21|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:15.209||+ 0.050||20|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:15.210||+ 0.051||20|
|5.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:15.445||+ 0.286||18|
|6.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:15.471||+ 0.312||19|
|7.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:15.734||+ 0.575||19|
|8.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:15.893||+ 0.734||23|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:16.110||+ 0.951||14|
|10.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:16.219||+ 1.060||19|
|11.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:16.226||+ 1.067||20|
|12.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:16.301||+ 1.142||21|
|13.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:16.311||+ 1.152||19|
|14.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:16.479||+ 1.320||20|
|15.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:17.027||+ 1.868||20|
|16.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:17.055||+ 1.896||26|
|17.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:17.276||+ 2.117||25|
|18.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:17.390||+ 2.231||19|
|19.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:17.404||+ 2.245||22|
|20.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:18.259||+ 3.100||18|
|21.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:18.488||+ 3.329||22|
|22.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:19.099||+ 3.940||17|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:19.147||+ 3.988||19|
|24.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:19.151||+ 3.992||19|