Australian GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report
Seven Different Chassis in FP3 Top 10!
Predictions that the 2012 F1 season is set to be far closer look like becoming reality if the final session of free practice for Sunday's season-opening Australian GP is any indicator.
Lewis Hamilton's McLaren MP4-27 (1:25.681) topped the only all-dry session at Melbourne so far, but there were seven different chassis covered by just one second ahead of the first qualifying session of the new season.
Romain Grosjean's Lotus (1:25.758) was second fastest, ahead of Mark Webber's Red Bull RB8 (1:25.900), which was just six thousandths of a second clear of Jenson Button in the second McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen (1:26.737) finished the session in 12th place after being unhappy with the steering feedback on the opening day.
Both Mercedes W03s looked highly threatening, with Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher setting the pace early in the session before finishing up fifth (1:25.929) and sixth (1:26.078) respectively.
Sebastian Vettel (1:26.211) finished his session early when he put a wheel on the grass going into Turn 6 and ended up in the gravel. He had just set a sector one personal best and was in the process of improving on a lap that was just over half a second off the ultimate pace, but set on the harder Pirelli tyre rather than the soft, which was used by the top four to set their times. That suggests that the world champion will be squarely in the pole position fight.
Pastor Maldonado (1:26.470) turned an impressive lap with the Williams FW34 for eighth quickest, ahead of Sergio Perez's Sauber (1:26.632) and the Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo (1:26.723) and Jean-Eric Vergne, which were split by just a hundredth of a second.
Nico Hulkenberg (1:27.029) was 14th with the first Force India and you had to look as far as 16th on the timesheet before you found the first Ferrari F2012 - Fernando Alonso lapping in 1:27.323. Team mate Felipe Massa (1:28.023) finished up just three tenths clear of Heikki Kovalainen's Caterham (1:28.341), the red cars looking a real handful around Albert Park.
Timo Glock took the new Marussia round in 1:30.728, without the benefits of KERS. The 107% cut-off time for the session would have been 1:31.67, so it will be an uphill struggle for HRT to qualify with Pedro de la Rosa turning 1:33.114, and Narain Karthikeyan, 1:33.261.