Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished FP3 on top of the timesheet, narrowly ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
Mon 23.07.12, 12:12PM
Alonso’s time of 1:16.014, set during the final run of the morning gave him an advantage of just 0.077s over Hamilton. Third was Sergio Pérez for Sauber, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen for Lotus. Mark Webber was fifth for RBR, one place ahead of his team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Pastor Maldonado was seventh for Williams, having led for large parts of the session. Felipe Massa was eighth in the second Ferrari, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi in the second Sauber. Bruno Senna in the second Williams rounded-out the top ten.
The forecast was unclear before the session got underway. Rain was certainly on the way but it wasn’t clear when it would arrive. Eager to get in as much running as possible before it did, cars streamed out of the pits when the session began with most getting straight into their first runs rather than doing the customary installation lap.
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg was top of the pile on home turf in the early running, while frantic activity went on down at Marussia as Charles Pic required an engine change. Pic would eventually get out in the last quarter of an hour and complete nine laps. That was the only real drama of the session, though Massa did have an excursion onto the gravel in the stadium.
The lead changed hands several times. Pastor Maldonado went top briefly but for large parts of the session Lewis Hamilton was the fastest man on track. Rain predictions kept changing with it variously forecast to come just before or just after the end of the session. With that in mind nobody was wasting any time and Alonso went back to the top as the majority of the field put on soft tyres for a qualifying simulation. The rain did begin to fall in the last ten minutes. Initially it wasn’t enough to cause problems and several drivers were still able to post fastest sector times but it steadily increased, effectively ending the session a few minutes early.
When the session finally ended the talking point was the sight of Jenson Button down in last position. Despite completing 25 laps, Button was nearly five seconds off his team-mate’s pace.