Practice 3: Webber tops in the wet, wet, wet

SPA FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM - AUGUST 26:  Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing drives during practice for the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit of Spa Francorchamps on August 26, 2011 in Spa Francorchamps, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Mark Webber was fastest in the final free practice at Spa-Francorchamps

Aug.27 (PVM) Mark Webber celebrated his 35th birthday and a new Red Bull contract, in the best way possible, by claiming top spot on the timing screens at the end of the final free practice of the Belgian grand prix weekend at a rain soaked Spa-Francorchamps.

Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.  Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 27 August 2011.

Nico Rosberg drives down the drenched pitlane with wet tyres bolted on

Another wet and miserable day beckoned in the Ardennes dampening the ‘fresh from the holidays’ spirit that should have otherwise engulfed the Formula 1 world as business resumed after the break.

Again running was down to a minimum and when the flag dropped to end the hour session Webber was fastest despite a concerted effort from Lewis Hamilton to dislodge him from top spot on his final run. Hamilton ended second fastest only 0.058 seconds down on the Aussie’s best time.

Jaime Alguersuari showed some strong pace in the Toro Rosso going third fastest, ahead of McLaren‘s Jenson Button followed by world championship leader Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull.

Showing remarkable composure, after his Friday barrier encounter, was Bruno Senna who finished the session ninth fastest in the Renault, despite still learning what goes where in the unfamiliar R31 cockpit.

Several drivers were subject to heart pounding off track moments, some closer than others, as they came to terms with the grip, or rather lack thereof.

Bruno Senna (BRA) Lotus Renault GP R31. Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday 27 August 2011.

Bruno Senna in action

All in all it was another wasted session, so much so that Fernando Alonso did not even bother to set a time, as the priority for teams is to save wet tyres for qualifying and the race which discourages long runs.

Now, in the short time between the final free practice and qualifying, the biggest challenge facing teams and drivers will be what setup to bolt on for qualy and the race. Does one go for a wet, a dry or an intermediate setup? – for sure the weather men will be earning their keep and will probably, as usual, get their sums all wrong!

Apart from an hour on the opening day, the three practice sessions have been a bore, but now things get intriguing with the prospect of a wet qualifying which can throw up some big surprises – remember Nico Hulkenberg last year in Brazil.

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh explained the predicament facing teams, “It’s frustrating because we’ve got limited number of tyres so we have to be careful how we consume them. I don’t think the track is going to dry and I expect we can go out on intermediates for qualifying but we only have four sets.”

Saturday, 27 August – Practice 3

Pos No

Driver

Team

Time

Gap

Laps

1 2 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 2:08.988 7
2 3 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 2:09.046 0.058 8
3 19 Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari 2:09.931 0.943 16
4 4 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 2:10.257 1.269 7
5 1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 2:10.402 1.414 9
6 18 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 2:10.580 1.592 15
7 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 2:10.837 1.849 12
8 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 2:11.437 2.449 13
9 9 Bruno Senna Renault 2:11.664 2.676 14
10 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 2:11.667 2.679 10
11 15 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 2:11.874 2.886 13
12 20 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 2:13.036 4.048 15
13 12 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 2:13.074 4.086 12
14 16 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 2:13.182 4.194 12
15 10 Vitaly Petrov Renault 2:13.290 4.302 15
16 11 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 2:13.778 4.790 12
17 17 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 2:14.334 5.346 14
18 21 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 2:14.682 5.694 11
19 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 2:17.159 8.171 12
20 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 2:18.039 9.051 10
21 22 Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 2:19.001 10.013 12
22 23 Vitantonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 2:19.597 10.609 14
23 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 2:22.454 13.466 7
24 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari No time 5