Melbourne Practice 3: Grosjean on top as rain storm lashes Albert Park

Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21. Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday 16 March 2013.

Romain Grosjean in the Mebourne rain

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean topped the times in third practice for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Saturday after a rain storm descended on the circuit 20 minutes into the session.

The Frenchman’s best lap of one minute 26.929 enabled him to leapfrog the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso (1.27.000) and Felipe Massa (1.27.241) into top spot.

The dark storm clouds then swept across Albert Park and for 20 minutes, high winds and heavy rain kept the drivers off the track and no one was able to better Grosjean’s time when the cars returned on wet weather tyres.

World champion Sebastian Vettel, who dominated both practice sessions for Red Bull in dry conditions on Friday, was only able to set the 12th best time and pulled off the track after the rain with a hydraulics problem.

Felipe Massa Ferrari F13

Felipe Massa Ferrari F13

Mark Webber, still seeking his first win at his home race at his 12th attempt, was just behind his German team mate in 13th, although he was one of the quickest drivers on the wet track.

Grosjean also set the pace after the rain ahead of his team mate Kimi Raikkonen and the Saubers of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, who managed 20 laps despite the weather.

McLaren’s Jenson Button complained over the team radio about understeer in his brief four-lap stint in the dry, indicating that the problems with his car exposed on Friday had not been resolved overnight.

Button, winner of the Melbourne race in three of the last four years and the final race of last season, was a whopping 2.4 seconds off the pace set by Vettel in second practice and he set the 17th quickest time in the third session.

Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06

Paul di Resta Force India VJM06

His fellow Briton Paul Di Resta was fourth quickest on the timesheets ahead of Grosjean’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen with Australian Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo sixth fastest before the rain descended.

Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton failed to really get their sessions going and finished 11th and 22nd fastest respectively.

What started as a good weekend for Silver Arrows, turned dramatically in the final minutes of FP2 the previous day as Hamilton ended in the gravel and Rosberg parked on the side of the circuit with a technical issue.

Free Practice 3 Results, Melbourne – Saturday, 16 March 2013 

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:26.929 14
2 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:27.000 0.071 7
3 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:27.241 0.312 10
4 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:27.533 0.604 9
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:27.625 0.696 12
6 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:27.849 0.920 19
7 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:27.860 0.931 16
8 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:28.069 1.140 15
9 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.253 1.324 18
10 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.253 1.324 20
11 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:28.486 1.557 13
12 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:29.808 2.879 9
13 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:30.073 3.144 16
14 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.388 3.459 17
15 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:30.598 3.669 20
16 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:30.959 4.030 19
17 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.236 6.307 7
18 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:33.527 6.598 8
19 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:39.232 12.303 13
20 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:39.779 12.850 13
21 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:42.872 15.943 13
22 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:47.246 20.317 9