Jenson Button has given every indication that his recent poor form could be a thing of the past by posting the fastest time in today’s final practice session at the European Grand Prix, ahead of this afternoon’s all-important qualifying session at the Valencia street circuit.
The Englishman took his McLaren to top spot in the dying minutes of the one-hour session, managing to find just enough clear track on his final soft-tyre qualifying simulation run to move to the top of the timesheets, beating the Lotus runners of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen by less than one-tenth of a second.
Nico Hülkenberg and Paul di Resta continued Force India’s very impressive Valencia form into the final session by going fourth- and fifth-quickest in the session, respectively, while Sergio Pérez showed that he could also be a factor with the sixth-fastest time.
With the final hour of free running the last proper opportunity for teams and drivers to bed in their qualifying and race set-ups, track running is crucial. Disaster befell Mark Webber early on, with the Australian grinding to a halt with a mechanical drama after just four laps. He finished the session well down the order, being unable to complete any laps on the softer Pirelli tyres.
It was the siwtch to the softer compound tyre that brought about a flurry of activity in the final half-hour of the session. The two Lotus runners quickly moved to the top of the timesheets and remained there until Button’s excellent effort.
Perhaps tellingly, Sebastian Vettel was on course to claim a provisional top spot, posting the fastest sector times in the first two sectors of the lap before aborting his final run. He was also the quickest runner on the slower medium compound tyres…
All three of the practice sessions have not given a complete picture of the pecking order heading into qualifying and Sunday’s race, which is predicted to occur in baking conditions around the harbourside.
And again we saw over a dozen drivers of the field’s fastest drivers covered by less than a second on the timesheets, which will no doubt lead to a few surprise results in qualifying later today.
Of the four Grands Prix held here to-date, the last three have been won from pole position. With overtaking extremely difficult around the track’s poorly-designed layout, a bad qualifying session could spell the end of some drivers’ weekends…
2012 European Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Session Times:
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:38.562||17|
|2.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:38.655||+ 0.093||18|
|3.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:38.759||+ 0.197||18|
|4.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:38.819||+ 0.257||17|
|5.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:38.892||+ 0.330||17|
|6.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:39.084||+ 0.522||20|
|7.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:39.141||+ 0.579||15|
|8.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:39.178||+ 0.616||17|
|9.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:39.318||+ 0.756||15|
|10.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:39.357||+ 0.795||18|
|11.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:39.358||+ 0.796||19|
|12.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:39.395||+ 0.833||15|
|13.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:39.434||+ 0.872||13|
|14.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:39.543||+ 0.981||13|
|15.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:39.946||+ 1.384||20|
|16.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:40.037||+ 1.475||17|
|17.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:40.134||+ 1.572||20|
|18.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:40.681||+ 2.119||15|
|19.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:41.282||+ 2.720||4|
|20.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:41.931||+ 3.369||15|
|21.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:42.758||+ 4.196||14|
|22.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:42.815||+ 4.253||16|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:42.943||+ 4.381||14|
|24.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:43.124||+ 4.562||16|
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