Rosberg returns to top in final practice in Spain | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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Rosberg returns to top in final practice in Spain


Nico Rosberg set the fastest time of final practice ahead of qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, pipping Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 1500ths of a second as Lewis Hamilton took third spot, two tenths down on his Mercedes team-mate.

Rosberg ran quickest on Friday morning only to see Hamilton set the fastest lap of the second practice session as the teams went through their initial qualifying-style runs but in the final preparations for Saturday afternoon’s grid shoot-out it was Rosberg who gained the upper hand, his best time of 1:26.021 being good enough to take P1 ahead of Vettel.

The early part of the session was run with significantly lower track temperatures than those seen on Friday afternoon when the circuit surface hit 50 degrees Celsius and early on a number of driver struggled to make the hard tyres used in the opening phase work well.

Rosberg too complained of trouble getting his rear brakes up to temperature, but the German still managed to run quickest on the hard tyres, setting a time of 1:26.777s to beat Hamilton by 0.188. The Briton also suffered a lurid spin midway through the session, running wide on the exit of Turn 3 and losing control as his car went over astroturf at the track edge. He managed to keep going to set a best hard-tyre time of 1:26.965.

Behind him in this phase was Daniel Ricciardo, though the Red Bull Racing driver had made an early switch to the option medium tyre, which was expected to give a 1.5s advantage over the orange-sidewalled hard.

Fourth on the hard tyres was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who after an unhappy Friday during which he frequently complained of poor grip, appeared much more comfortable with his SF15-T. He ended the opening exchanges ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and sixth placed Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel.

Elsewhere, there were problems for Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat. His team found a water leak on his car prior to the start of the session and he spent much of the hour-long session in the garage.

He eventually emerged with a little over 20 minutes left on the clock for an opening hard tyre run that left him 10th  and two seconds adrift of Rosberg’s pace.

Kvyat’s first laps coincided with the start of the qualifying simulations for the rest of the field, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg the first man, apart from Ricciardo, to test the medium tyres. His opening time was good enough for P7 but it was still 1.3s down on Rosberg’s hard-tyre best.

Bottas was the first of the expected front-runners to show his hand ands he took P1 with a time of 1:26.682, just under a tenth faster than Rosberg on the hard tyres.

The Williams driver was quickly beaten by Rosberg, who posted his session-best time of 1:26.021. Vettel slotted into P2, a tenth adrift of his countryman and Hamilton then took P3 ahead of Bottas.

And that was largely how the order stayed as few improvements were registered in the final moments of the session. Bottas was followed Raikkonen, almost eight tenths of a second adrift of team-mate Vettel. Ricciardo’s earlier lap on the mediums stood as his best of the session and he claimed sixth place ahead of Felipe Massa in the second Williams and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.

Kvyat got in one run on the medium tyres in the final minutes to climb from 17th to P9 and tenth place was taken by Carlos Sainz in the second Toro Rosso.

2015 Spanish Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.021s – 19
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:26.177s 0.156s 14
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.222s 0.201s 10
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:26.682s 0.661s 19
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:26.944s 0.923s 14
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:27.048s 1.027s 19
7 Felipe Massa Williams 1:27.109s 1.088s 19
8 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:27.132s 1.111s 18
9 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:27.313s 1.292s 7
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:27.809s 1.788s 17
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1:27.938s 1.917s 17
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:28.082s 2.061s 13
13 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:28.096s 2.075s 23
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:28.304s 2.283s 17
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:28.578s 2.557s 17
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:28.618s 2.597s 18
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:28.788s 2.767s 20
18 Sergio Perez Force India 1:28.996s 2.975s 14
19 Will Stevens Marussia 1:31.125s 5.104s 16
20 Roberto Merhi Marussia 1:31.749s 5.728s 17