Mar.24 (PVM) Nico Rosberg topped the final free practice session of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend at Sepang to set the scene for a fascinating qualifying shoot out later in the day with as many as a eight drivrs with a shot at top slot on the grid – although one of them will drop five places after qualifying…
McLaren are likely to have ammo to spare, which they will probably unleash in the important afternoon session; the likes of Red Bull, Lotus and of course Mercedes will also fancy a shot at pole when the chips are down and the pressure on in Q3.
Meanwhile, Rosberg confirmed that the Mercedes W03 is pretty handy in short hot lap bursts and could well be heading for their first pole in the modern era of F1 as they attempt to emulate their golden age at the pinnacle of the sport in the fifties.
The Red Bull pair made their presence felt with Sebastian Vettel second and Mark Webber third fastest; Vettel 0.443 seconds off Rosberg’s best.
Up next were the Lotus pair – the team having an incident packed early morning in Sepang after a fire engulfed their hospitality area (report here>>>). On track Raikkonen’s car required a gearbox change which means the Finn will drop five places on the grid and, compounding the frustration, is the fact that he is still not to 100% comfortable with the steering on the E20.
Nevertheless the black and gold cars were fourth and fifth at the end of the session – Raikkonen fractionally faster than teammate Romain Grosjean.
Australia winner Jenson Button was sixth fastest in the McLaren MP4-27, with Lewis Hamilton ninth quickest – but the smart money will be on the Vodafone backed duo to do the business in qualifying. For sure their big guns were not rolled out in the practice session. Notably Hamilton did only eight laps, least of all, in the session.
Again showing handy pace – and a huge leap forward from last year were Williams. Both Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna at the sharp end of proceedings during the course of the session. Maldonado ending the seventh and Senna 12th fastest.
Michael Schumacher was 0.899 seconds down on Mercedes teammate Rosberg, but was one of the nine drivers within a second of the top pace.
Fastest Ferrari powered driver – again not a red car – was Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber who rounded out the top ten, while the boys from Maranello endure another torrid couple of days in the early stage of their already compromised 2012 campaign.
Fernando Alonso was 13th on the timing screens and Felipe Massa down in 18th…
Subbed by AJN.
Free Practice 3 – Sepang, 24 March 2012
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.320||0.443||15|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.338||0.461||12|
|14||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.285||1.408||16|
|17||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.794||1.917||18|
|23||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:42.464||5.587||14|