Vettel quickest but question marks remain
12 May 2012 – Sebastian Vettel moved atop the timesheets in final practice for the Spanish Grand Prix but it remains to be seen how much fuel his rivals were carrying on Saturday morning. In a mixed up and very warm session, Pastor Maldonado and Kamui Kobayashi completed the top three for Williams and Sauber.
On what is Catalonia’s hottest day of 2012 by far, ambient temperatures are already in the mid 20s and expected to hit the dizzying heights of 32°C (90°F) this afternoon. Although a number of empty seats remained in the grandstands for this final hour of practice, traffic continues to build up on the outside of the Circuit de Catalunya.
Once again, the session itself was generally incident-free, although there was a potentially significant moment for the weekend when Romain Grosjean was forced to stop at Turn 10 with a fuel pressure problem. Although both the Frenchman and his Lotus – which showed highly encouraging pace yesterday – were able to return to the pits, his mechanics were unable to rectify the problem on time.
Charles Pic posted the first lap time for Marussia, but it was Mercedes and Nico Rosberg on top as soon as the yellow-marked Soft tyres were rolled out. Incidentally, Pirelli has brought non-consecutive compounds to this race, meaning the yellow Softs and silver Hards are the choices for the first time this season.
Following a minor delay of his own, Vettel duly seized the top spot with his best effort of 1:23.168. However, a combination of factors could be disguising the true pace; not only are many believed to have run only on heavy fuel, but Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren was held up by traffic at the RACC Chicane on its final run.
With Maldonado and Kobayashi in the top three, Mark Webber was fourth in the second Red Bull from Sergio Pérez, who was fastest for some time before confirming that both Saubers ended up inside the leading quintet. Local favourite Alonso led the second half of the top ten from Jean-Éric Vergne, previous Barcelona winners Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen and Chinese Grand Prix victor Nico Rosberg.
In the dying moments of the session, Timo Glock appeared to experience a loose left-rear wheel and was given no option but to pull his Marussia into the pit lane exit.
Spanish Grand Prix qualifying begins at 2pm local time (BST +1) and can also be followed through the GPUpdate.net Live Report