F1 Spain FP3 Results & Report: Vettel Quickest on 1 Lap in Final Practice

What Happens When It’s Your Teammate You Have to Worry About

6:17am EST — Mark Webber nearly continued his domination of the practices for the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix, only to be pipped by teammate Sebastian Vettel (1:21.707) on a final quick lap during Saturday morning’s final practice. Red Bull had found a “small” issue with Vettel’s car, leaving the reigning champion only four installation laps and time for a single timed lap on the session. Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, and Jenson Button completed the top five. Further down the order, Ferrari duo Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa managed only ninth and eleventh fastest. In the only major incident, Nick Heidfeld’s day was ruined about halfway through the session when an apparent fuel leak caught his Renault on fire. Though the flames were pretty spectacular, the German was able to pull over at a marshal’s station and the fire was quickly extinguished.

Friday was Webber’s day, as the Australian led Vettel in the morning session by more than a second, then Hamilton for Friday’s afternoon practice. The rest of the field had caught up by the afternoon, with Hamilton just four hundredths slower. Rosberg, Alonso, and Perez completed the fastest five in the morning, while Vettel, Button, and Alonso were the quickest in the afternoon. Both sessions were generally unmarred by incident, with just a few drivers getting sideways or into the gravel. Only Maldonado had to be towed out of the kitty litter and back to the garage, in the morning session. While Webber had a larger margin over his fellow quickest drivers in the morning, it was the afternoon session that posed the larger problems for slower teams, as the frontrunner’s quick times put quite a few drivers out of 107%. Meanwhile, Ferrari was forced to revert to their Turkey-spec wings after a new exploitation of the wing-heighth loophole was deemed against regulations. Teams can run “illegal” experimental parts on Friday, but not Saturday or Sunday.

Petrov, D’Ambrosio, and Trulli were the first out into the Spanish sunshine on Saturday morning, leading a wave of cars beginning the final, sixty-minute practice session. Not five minutes into the session, all drivers had completed an installation lap, with Alonso sweetly giving the cheering crowd a wave. After just one or two (or three, in Schumacher’s case) laps, all drivers were back in the garages as the session ticked away.

15 Minutes In:
Trulli looked to be the first driver on a completed lap about a quarter of the way through the session, followed by Karthikeyan. The Italian did finish a flying lap (1:30.924), followed by other drivers finally beginning their timed laps. Interestingly, Petrov’s (1:30.418) was just a half second faster than Trulli. Meanwhile, Karthikeyan was on a couple of messy laps, informing the team that DRS was not working, when requested to use it. More times began to trickle in, with di Resta claiming the to spot, only to lose it to Petrov, then Kobayashi (1:27.826). The Japanese driver was the first to come closer to the times from Friday.

Soon Schumacher was on a very quick lap, taking well over a second off Kobayashi’s times, though none of the traditional frontrunners had yet to set a time. Rosberg took the lead from his teammate, only to lose it to Webber. On his first fast lap (1:24.750), the Australian continued the trend of the weekend to take a clear lead of the timesheets with a time over a second and a half faster than Rosberg. However, the real drama was in Heidfeld’s flaming Renault. He and the fire were quickly out at Turn 10, with no apparent cause for the ignition. The flames appeared to begin while the German was simply driving along, as Renault informed Twitter, “Nick’s car catching fire was not scheduled, cause being investigated.” To most observers, it appeared to be caused by a fuel leak.

Meanwhile, Webber (1:23.846) led Hamilton (by a second), with Rosberg, Schumacher, Maldonado, Petrov, Buemi, Alguersuari, Sutil, and Barrichello as the top ten. Vettel, Kovalainen, Button, and Alonso were the only drivers who had not yet set times, thirty minutes into the hourlong session. Alonso’s first time put him fourth fastest, nearly two and a half seconds off Webber’s pace. The Spaniard was soon radioing back to Ferrari that he was “happy to come back in,” as the car was “undriveable” and changes needed to be made before the next run.

Schumacher, though, might have been happier with his car, as his next lap took four tenths off Webber’s, putting the German (1:23.057) at the top of the timesheets. Button had slotted into third, ahead of Hamilton, with Rosberg fifth and around twenty minutes to go. Vettel alone remained timeless. Quickly Rosberg joined his teammate by moving into second, just three tenths off Schumacher’s pace.

15 minutes Remaining:
Schumacher continued to lead the session with three-quarters gone, followed by Rosberg, Webber, Button, Hamilton, Buemi, Perez, Alguersuari, Alonso, and Massa as the top ten. Massa went fourth fastest quickly thereafter on his first run on the softer tire compound, while Vettel had yet to set a time or post more than three installation laps. With Schumacher’s quick time, the 107% qualifying lap time would be just 5.814s slower, leaving the broken Renault of Heidfeld, and both Virgin Racing and HRT cars out of the running. Maldonado had his usual run through the gravel with around ten minutes to go, but he was able to continue on.

Meanwhile, Kobayashi had jumped up through the order dramatically, going third fastest and beating out Webber’s time. Webber responded soon thereafter on the softer tires to go quickest of all (1:21.791), again by over a second. Alonso’s first run on the soft tires was good enough for fifth. Button dropped him down to sixth, with teammate Hamilton contributing to the effort by taking third from Button and putting Alonso seventh fastest. Vettel finally rejoined with just three minutes left, completing one timed lap to take the fastest lap from teammate Webber by just eight hundredths.

Final Times for FP3, Spanish Grand Prix:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:21.707 6
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:21.791 +0.084 17
3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:23.057 +1.350 16
4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:23.068 +1.361 13
5. Jenson Button McLaren 1:23.214 +1.507 14
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:23.397 +1.690 18
7. Kamui Koabayashi Sauber 1:23.669 +1.962 17
8. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:24.043 +2.336 18
9. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:24.270 +2.563 11
10. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:24.318 +2.611 18
11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:24.322 +2.615 17
12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:24.329 +2.622 19
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:24.399 +2.692 17
14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:24.535 +2.828 16
15. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:24.695 +2.988 18
16. Jamie Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1:24.722 +3.015 14
17. Paul di Resta Force India 1:25.223 +3.516 19
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:26.236 +4.529 22
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1:27.000 +5.293 20
20. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:27.706 +5.999 20
21. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1:28.330 +6.623 17
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 1:28.057 +7.350 18
23. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:29.200 +7.493 6
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1:29.562 +7.855 16

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