FP3: Alonso sets the pace in Bahrain
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso beat Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel to the top of the timesheet in the final free practice session ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Most of the hour-long session was spent on the hard tyre compound, with Vettel bossing proceedings with a lap of 1:33.348 set after half an hour. And when the field began to move on to the medium tyre, the defending champion’s P1 time remained the benchmark. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton went closest to the Red Bull Racing man’s time with a lap of 1:33.455 on the quicker tyre.
It was only when Alonso bolted on a set of medium tyres in the last 10 minutes of the session that Vettel’s time was eclipsed. The Ferrari driver immediately logged a best lap of 1:33.247 to bump Vettel to P2, with Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber third, 0.133 adrift of top spot with his best lap on medium tyres.
Vettel, though, had emerged from pit lane on medium tyres and set about chasing down an improvement. The lap didn’t come together, however, as traffic in the final sector forced him to back off, with the result that Alonso’s lap stood.
It was a similar story across the track in the closing moments. With most of the field circling as the clock ticked down, few of the front runners were able to get the best out of their medium tyre runs, with the result that the order remained largely static by the time the chequered flag was displayed.
In the end, Alonso held top spot, ahead of the Red Bull Racing pair. Kimi Raikkonen was third for Lotus ahead of Hamilton, Romain Grosjean and Adrian Sutil, who took P7 for Force India. The top ten order was completed by Paul Di Resta, Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg.
The major drama of the session came right at the end of the hour when Lewis Hamilton got on the radio and informed his Mercedes crew that he had a problem with the rear left of the car. The Briton was forced to limp back to the pits with what looked like a broken suspension.
There was trouble too for Max Chilton. The Marussia driver was forced to sit out the second half of the session as mechanics worked to repair a water pump on his car’s KERS unit.
2013 Bahrain Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Times
1 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:33.247
2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:33.348
3 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:33.380
4 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:33.446
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:33.455
6 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:33.464
7 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:33.596
8 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:33.700
9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:33.764
10 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:33.922
11 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:33.949
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:34.117
13 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:34.282
14 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:34.577
15 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:34.611
16 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:34.678
17 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:34.833
18 Charles Pic Caterham 1:35.816
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:36.731
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:36.939
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1:37.630
22 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:39.592