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Singapore GP 2016

SEPTEMBER 17, 2016

Practice 3 Report - Godzilla stars in FP3

Nico Rosberg
© The Cahier Archive

 

By Dan Knutson in Singapore

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was the quickest driver in Free Practice 3 while his teammate Lewis Hamilton wound up eighth after slithering off the track. But the real star of FP3 was a giant lizard - quickly nicknamed "Godzilla" by the Red Bull team - that dashed safely across the track early in the session.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 60-minute session was 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36 degrees Centigrade.) The humidity was 61 percent.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

Rosberg had clocked the best time on Friday - 1:44.152 - using the ultra soft Pirelli tires. Given how off the pace Mercedes was in Singapore last year, the car's performance was encouraging this year. Still, the Mercedes team remained wary of the challenge from Ferrari and Red Bull.

"It's been a decent start to the weekend," Rosberg said on Friday. "Maybe we've learnt a few lessons from last year but early days. Even last year on Friday we were looking okay and then come Saturday we were nowhere so let's wait and see.

"We definitely need to keep on working and getting the most out of it for tomorrow and hope that's going to be enough to give Red Bull and Ferrari a run for their money because here for sure is their best track."

The Haas duo was the first out on track.

Most drivers were not bothered to do a flying lap or even go out in the early stages of the session. The track conditions were going to be a lot different during the night qualifying and race.

Verstappen, with the soft compound Pirellis on his Red Bull, turned a 1:47.038 ten minutes into FP3. Then the red flag put a stop to the session. Wehrlein had spun his Manor backwards into the barriers, and then deposited bits of rear wing around the track when he went back to the pits.

But there was also a huge lizard running across the track!

"There's a giant lizard on the track!" radioed Verstappen.

"You came face to face with Godzilla then," his team replied.

The reptile made it safely across.

After five minutes the session was restarted.

Nasr and Gutierrez nearly collided and Nasr spun. There was no lizard involved.

Raikkonen avoided any trouble to set a 1:46.813 on the ultra soft tires. It didn't take long for Rosberg to beat that with a 1:45.544 using the super softs. Hamilton, on the same compound, moved into second place with a 1:45.806.

Just before the midpoint of the session, Hamilton locked up his tires and slid straight off the track at Turn 7. He was going on the outside of Rosberg who was on the inside line.

Vettel and Raikkonen were third and fourth at this stage, followed by Sainz, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Bottas.

"The pace of @redbullracing on ultrasoft is going to be very interesting to watch. A close fight on our hands," Pirelli tweeted.

So far Ricciardo and Verstappen had used just the soft compound tires.

Vettel was not happy with the handling of his Ferrari. He radioed: "I think you will have seen I need a lot more rear on entry. I am a passenger."

Grosjean was not happy with the locking brakes on his Haas, and radioed a blistering complaint the team.

With 20 minutes remaining, most of the drivers were in the pits preparing for their qualifying simulations on the ultra soft Pirellis. The top 10 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Sainz, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Perez and Ricciardo.

Rosberg and Hamilton, both on the ultras, took to the track with 17 minutes remaining. Rosberg crossed the line to record a 1:44.352. Hamilton went off the track, locking up his brakes once again on the bumps going into Turn 7.

Ricciardo, who had traffic on his run, then set a time of 1:44.903 to claim second place. Verstappen beat that with a 1:44.411. Then Raikkonen moved into third with a 1:44.860.

Vettel could only manage fifth place after setting a 1:45.104.

Five minutes remained when Hamilton went out for another attempt, but he did not do a fast lap.

The top 10 at the end of FP3 were: Rosberg, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Kvyat, Hamilton, Sainz and Bottas.

The star lizard did not record a lap time.