F1 Spa FP3 Results & Report: Webber Fastest In Continued Damp Conditions


What Happens When Webber Celebrates His Birthday With a Contract & Fast Lap

6:18am EST — Running was slowed again in the final practice session for the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix by rain, as teams stayed in the garage in terribly wet conditions to save tires. Mark Webber (2:08.988) ended the session on his birthday fastest, with Lewis Hamilton, Jaime Alguersuari, Jenson Button, and Sebastian Buemi completing the top five. Felipe Massa set a time only in the final moments and well off the pace as Ferrari conserved their tires in the very wet conditions, while teammate Alonso set no timed laps.

Friday was a day marked by when rain had fallen and when it was going to fall next in the Ardennes. Schumacher (1:54.355) and Rosberg led the morning session simply because they posted times before anyone else, and before the heavens opened. Though there was some drier running at the end of the morning session, the truer times were posted in the first half of the afternoon practice.

It began in somewhat damp conditions, and rain was again pelting down when forty minutes remained. In the time when the track began to properly dry and slick tires were used, fast times came from a number of drivers, though Webber (1:50.321), Alonso, and Button were the men on top as the rain began. Hamilton and Massa completed the fastest five in a day that, surprisingly, had only two incidents. Both Senna and di Resta hit the barrier at Turn 9 in the morning, though neither crash caused an excessive amount of damage. di Resta did bring out a red flag, as the corner workers were still returning Senna’s Renault to the garage.

As had become typical, ten minutes before the final, sixty minute, practice began Saturday morning, rain began falling on the track. Also typical, D’Ambrosio was the first driver out onto the track, followed by Perez. With the rain falling rather lightly, and forecast to be far worse later, ten drivers were quickly out and completing their installation laps. Though most went out on the intermediates, McLaren waited a bit and were forced to put on the full wet tires for their first laps, which came five minutes into the session. Ferrari also put Alonso and Massa on the full wets, though they were out slightly earlier than McLaren. Soon, only Button was out on the very wet track for his single instal lap. Kovalainen summed the conditions up neatly, “It’s hardcore. It’s fun for sure, but a bit risky…”

The track had only rain on it a quarter of the way through the session, as Button explained that the conditions were “worse than Canada.” Ricciardo had not bothered to complete an installation lap, though he was the only driver who had not. He did make his way out a few minutes later when the conditions bettered, moving even more slowly than usual in the HRT and with spray streaming out behind him. Soon Buemi was also back out, as the rain appeared to have stopped. He was joined by teammate Alguersuari as Toro Rosso performed their typical track cleaning duties near the halfway point of the session.

Vettel was the next to head out, along with Barrichello, bringing the grand total of drivers lapping with thirty minutes remaining to four. Mike Gascoyne helpfully tweeted, “No rain at the moment but another shower predicted in 15 mins. Think teams will try to get a run in before it comes.” Both Toro Rossos did post times, with Buemi (2:14.207) sixteen seconds faster than Alguersuari as they tiptoed around the circuit.

As the skies momentarily cleared, more drivers were lapping, though only Buemi, Alguersuari, and Vettel had set times with twenty-five minutes remaining. Just a few minutes later, Sutil had taken third fastest, with Webber, Vettel, Senna, Petrov, Maldonado, Trulli, Rosberg, Kobayashi, Perez, Kovalainen, Liuzzi, and di Resta as the fifteen drivers with times. Buemi and Algersuari still led.

Meanwhile, Rosberg had slid off the track and allowed a driven Sutil to push past him as though they were racing. The times continued to change and rearrange, though rain had continued falling. Sutil (2:13.2321) was the next to go fastest after recovering after losing out on the dry running Friday afternoon to reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg. He was soon bested by teammate di Resta (2:12.955).

Schumacher appeared to be the first to head back out on the inters, for his first timed run. Despite issues with his visor, the difficult conditions, and some major moments, he went second fastest, two tenths off di Resta’s time. With thirteen minutes left, neither the McLarens nor Ferraris appeared to be doing much beyond tire saving for the final minutes of the session. Alguersuari was the next to go fastest, by nearly two seconds, as Vettel rejoined and Button went out to finally set a time.

With ten to go, Alonso went out as well on the wet tires while Hamilton attempted to lap on the inters. On track, Rosberg was suffering from what appeared to be a punctured right front. Button went second fastest behind Alguersuari, splitting the Toro Rossos, and beginning another quick lap. Webber, however, was nearly a second faster than the Spanish driver at his sister team. Though Button was on a quick lap, the team radioed to him that he could pit at his discretion to save tires, having learned as much as necessary. He responded that he still had balance issues, but did return to the garage.

Webber was quickest with five to go, leading Alguersuari, Button, Vettel, Buemi, Schumacher, Sutil, di Resta, Senna, and Hamilton as the top ten. Neither Ferrari had yet set a time, and Alonso would not do so at all. Hamilton quickly moved up to fifth fastest. In the end, the rain did not allow the teams to learn more than they likely already had.

Final Times for FP3, 2011 Belgian Grand Prix:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 2:08.988 7
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 2:09.046 +0.058 8
3. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 2:09.931 +0.943 16
4. Jenson Button McLaren 2:10.257 +1.269 7
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 2:10.402 +1.414 9
6. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 2:10.580 +1.592 15
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 2:10.837 +1.849 12
8. Adrian Sutil Force India 2:11.437 +2.449 13
9. Bruno Senna Renault 2:11.664 +2.676 14
10. Michael Schumcher Mercedes GP 2:11.667 +2.679 10
11. Paul di Resta Force India 2:11.874 +2.886 13
12. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 2:13.036 +4.048 15
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 2:13.074 +4.086 12
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 2:13.182 +4.194 12
15. Vitaly Petrov Renault 2:13.290 +4.302 15
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 2:13.778 +4.790 12
17. Sergio Perez Sauber 2:14.334 +5.346 14
18. Jarno Trulli Lotus 2:14.682 +5.694 11
19. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 2:17.159 +8.171 12
20. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 2:18.039 +9.051 10
21. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 2:19.001 +10.013 12
22. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 2:19.597 +10.609 14
23. Felipe Massa Ferrari 2:22.454 +13.466 7
24. Fernando Alonso Ferrari no time no time 5
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