Fernando Alonso topped the timesheet in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix as the rain finally abated at Spa-Francorchamps.
Having been hampered by wet sessions yesterday, a dry track and sunny conditions were always going to make for a busy session this morning and so it proved as the team’s attempted to compress a day’s lost work into a single one-hour session.
It also meant that a variety of tactics were employed with some teams opting for heavy fuel runs before switching to qualifying simulations midway through the session. That skewed the early order with back-marking teams initially matching the pace of some of the expected front runners.
The pattern was broken when Alonso moved from the prime hard tyre to the mediums as the half-hour marked approached. He hustled his Ferrari into the mid 1:50s but as his main competitors also shifted to the medium tyre the times tumbled.
With a quarter of an hour remaining, Mark Webber jumped to the top of the list with a time of 1:49.164. The Red Bull driver’s show of pace was a morale booster as overnight his team had been forced into an unscheduled gearbox change and Webber will be subject to a five-place grid penalty tomorrow.
The Australian couldn’t hold on to the top slot this morning however, and as the times continued to drop it was Alonso who rose to the top of the timesheet, the championship leader lapping in 1:48.542, just over a 1500ths of a second ahead of Spa specialist Kimi Raikkonen. The impressive looking Saubers of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Pérez finished third and fourth respectively, while Jenson Button his pre-qualifying preparation with the fifth-fastest time. The rest of the top ten positions were filled by: Felipe Massa, Webber, Romain Grosjean, Sebastian Vettel and Paul Di Resta.
Nico Rosberg, though, will go into the qualifying session with just a single timed dry run under his belt. The German was forced to pull over with a technical problem at turn 12 after just five laps this morning.