Hamilton sets fastest time in FP3

By on Saturday, March 17, 2012

© Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the third free practice session in the Australian Grand Prix with a time of 1:25.681, ahead of Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber.

With the teams and drivers craving a dry practice session in order to fully prepare for qualifying and the race, practice 3 was inevitably bound to be a dramatic session. And that it was, as the teams began qualifying simulations on the soft Pirelli tyre. While Hamilton ended the session fastest, Vettel embedded himself in the gravel.

The session started off in usual fashion, with 11 cars all spilling out of the pits early on led by Russian driver Vitaly Petrov. However, as the majority of the field completed only one installation lap, the two Mercedes’ of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg continued on and set about completing timed laps. The two Germans’ pushed a little too hard early on, however, as they both ran wide on track with Schumacher running extremely wide at turn 3.

It was Rosberg who set the first timed lap of the session, with a 01:29.788 which he improved on with a 01:26.982 shortly after. As the rest of the field began to set timed laps, Hamilton went fastest, roughly three tenths ahead of Rosberg’s time.

After suffering a disastrous start to the weekend, Ferrari’s woes continued throughout FP3 as Felipe Massa spun at turn 15 and both he and Alonso continued to struggle around the Albert Park circuit. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa seemed unable to push to the limit as their cars suffered with a lack of grip.

Spanish outfit HRT completed their first trouble free session of the weekend, with both Narain Karthikeyan and Pedro De La Rosa completing 25 laps between them. They will be hoping they have done enough to be in with a chance of qualifying for tomorrow’s Australian Grand Prix.

As the session wore on, Schumacher became the first driver to set a timed lap on the soft Pirelli compound, with a 01:26.234. His team-mate then went quicker still as the Mercedes’ swapped fastest laps atop the timing sheets.

Red Bull finally showed their first true timed lap of the weekend, as Sebastian Vettel went 3rd with a 01:26.211 on the harder Pirelli compound. However, Red Bull’s weekend took a turn for the worse as the reigning World Champion spun his RB8 into the gravel at turn 6. Whether this sudden turn of events will have an affect on Vettel’s qualifying session, or whether he’ll bounce back and secure pole like he has done so many times before, time will tell.

After the stricken RB8 was cleared away, Lotus began to show they had pace as reigning GP2 Champion Romain Grosjean went quickest with a 01:25.758. His team-mate, and former F1 World Champion, Kimi Raikkonen ended the session 12th, still getting to grips with the steering of the E20.

As the session came to a close, there was still time for yet another twist as Michael Schumacher embedded his Mercedes in the gravel at turn 9. The former World Champion has shown decent pace throughout the weekend so far, and will be hoping to bounce back in qualifying after this unfortunate off.

In the dying seconds of the session, Lewis Hamilton went fastest with a 01:25.681, a time which remained fastest as the checkered flag emerged signaling the end of FP3. With all free practice sessions now complete, the teams’ will be hoping they have gained enough information to have a competitive qualifying session.

Pos  Driver                Team                  Time                Laps
 1.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes      1m25.681s           18
 2.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault         1m25.758s  + 0.077  21
 3.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault      1m25.900s  + 0.219  20
 4.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes      1m25.906s  + 0.225  17
 5.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes              1m25.929s  + 0.248  23
 6.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes              1m26.078s  + 0.397  14
 7.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault      1m26.211s  + 0.530  12
 8.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault      1m26.470s  + 0.789  17
 9.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari        1m26.632s  + 0.951  20
10.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.723s  + 1.042  17
11.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1m26.733s  + 1.052  15
12.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault         1m26.737s  + 1.056  19
13.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari        1m26.755s  + 1.074  21
14.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes  1m27.029s  + 1.348  23
15.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault      1m27.119s  + 1.438  20
16.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari               1m27.323s  + 1.642  19
17.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes  1m27.428s  + 1.747  22
18.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari               1m28.023s  + 2.342  19
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault      1m28.341s  + 2.660  19
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault      1m28.702s  + 3.021  11
21.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth     1m30.728s  + 5.047  13
22.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth     1m31.225s  + 5.544  14
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth          1m33.114s  + 7.433  12
24.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth          1m33.261s  + 7.580  13

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