With the rain holding off, Lewis Hamilton carried his good form over from the morning session to go fastest again in the afternoon.
The McLaren driver spent the whole of the session at the top of the order, though at the close his time was just 0.054s clear of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Alonso in turn was a tenth ahead of his team-mate Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel for Red Bull Racing and Force India’s Paul di Resta completed the top five.
With rain expected sometime during the session there was perhaps more urgency to get laps in early in proceedings, however the rain held off resulting in good mileage for many drivers. Vettel managed 44 laps, Hamilton was just one behind on 43. “A great day for Lewis,” summarised McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale before injecting a note of caution. “We know that the pace is in the car here, it looks strong today [but] today is today, and listening to what’s going on around us, who knows what tomorrow brings?”
It wasn’t all good news for McLaren: Jenson Button’s gearbox problems kept him in the garage during the early running, while at Caterham Heikki Kovalainen was also unable to go out early as his crew worked to fix the damaged sustained earlier in the day when he hit the wall. Kovalainen eventually got going 40 minutes into the session and recovered his day with 24 laps.
Shortly after Kovalainen got running the session was stopped when Bruno Senna hit the Wall of Champions. Senna’s Williams was badly damaged, though the driver was uninjured. It took the clean-up crew ten minutes to clear the track and for the session to restart. Many of those who had already completed a long-run on the soft tyre swapped to the supersoft. Alonso immediately set his fastest time of the session, just shy of Hamilton’s standard but most attention was focussed on Jenson Button who was in the garage preparing to run. He eventually got out with less than 20 minutes of the session remaining and managed a truncated comparison of the two tyre compounds before the end.
The rain held off until the session was over but shortly after the chequered flag fell a torrential downpour began, reminding everyone of the conditions under which last year’s race was ran.