Australian GP - Saturday - Practice Session 3 Report
Rain hits practice session three
Dark clouds threatened impending rain but there were also patches of blue in the sky as Free Practice 3 got underway. Everybody rushed out to get in as many laps in as possible on the dry track.
The Ferrari duo of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso set the pace with times of 1:27.407 and 1:27.537 respectively 10 minutes into the session. Meanwhile, the Marussia team radioed Jules Bianchi that it was expected to rain within the next 10 minutes.
Just before the 15 minute mark, Romain Grosjean turned a 1:26.929 in his Lotus. And less than two minutes later the rain began to fall, sending fans scurrying for shelter, umbrellas and rain gear. Blustery winds made things even more uncomfortable for the spectators.
All the drivers who had been out on the track headed back into their garages. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry to do any laps in the rain, so the teams sat in their dry garages and the fans sat out in the rain. Before the action stopped, Mark Webber (Red Bull) had completed 10 laps. Nobody else had done more than 8, and Max Chilton (Marussia) had completed only 1 lap.
With 26 minutes to go, and with the sky getting lighter and the rain easing off, Massa ventured out on the wet track on extreme wet Pirelli rain tires. The lone Ferrari gave the soaked fans something to watch. Then Sauber drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg as well as Alonso also were out on the track. Soon more drivers followed them out there as well.
Lap times in the wet were in the 1:48 to 1:50 range. The racing line on the track did start to dry, but the best lap times were still those set before the rains came. And thus the top six for the session were: Romain Grosjean (1:26.929), Fernando Alonso (1:27.000), Felipe Massa (1:27.241), Paul di Resta (1:27.533), Kimi Raikkonen (1:27.625) and Daniel Ricciardo (1:27.849).
With a dozen minutes remaining, the rain had stopped and the track had dried enough for drivers to start switching to Pirellis intermediate rain tire.
Nico Rosberg radioed the team that he was struggling with oversteer, and the Mercedes engineers told him the rear tires were overheating.
With 10 minutes to go, Sebastian Vettel parked his Red Bull at Turn 4. His car had lost hydraulic pressure, and the team radioed him to not shift gears and stop immediately. Vettel, the fastest driver on Friday, had to walk back to the pits. Meanwhile his teammate Mark Webber set the fastest wet lap at 1:40.081
Raikkonen then beat that with a 1:39.157 in his Lotus. In the final three minutes the racing line got drier and the lap times faster. Grosjean, who had been quickest before it started to rain, was also quickest in the wet/dry conditions with a 1:37.799.