Alonso heads busy final practice at Spa
1 September 2012 – Fernando Alonso posted the quickest time in a challenging final practice session at Spa on Saturday morning. After the rain of Friday, the teams condensed three hours of work into one as the Ferrari headed Kimi Räikkönen’s Lotus. McLaren finished fifth and twelfth as Red Bull posted their fastest times on the Hard compound tyre.
Living up to its microclimate, Spa delivered bright sunshine this morning despite somewhat chilly temperatures in the paddock. The hour-long session always promised to be action-packed, with drivers having only a quarter of the usual time to work on dry weather setups. This was also the first time this weekend that the Hard and Medium compounds were wheeled out.
It was a disastrous affair for Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes became stuck in sixth gear and pulled off-track at the Fagnes Chicane barely ten minutes in. This left the German with not a single run on the Option, Medium compound. No other drivers suffered such problems, but – pushing the limits on a ‘green’ circuit – numerous men locked up and out-braked themselves.
Similar to the usual pattern of Friday, a number of names took their turns atop the timesheet as both cars and the track became quicker. An unusual order could remain for the weekend, not least because the teams had to submit their gear ratios on Friday evening without having had any dry running; this was done based on past data and some educated guesswork.
Alonso – fastest in the high-speed first sector of the lap – posted a best effort of 1:48.542, edging out Räikkönen by one tenth of a second. Incidentally, Lotus has been unable to run its ‘Double DRS’ device as it had no opportunities to test it properly on Friday. The Saubers of Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi were next up, with Jenson Button fifth; this raised questions as to whether McLaren is sandbagging or is genuinely set to struggle this weekend.
While Marussia tested what they believe could be highly effective upgrades en route to 19th and 20th positions, ahead of Vitaly Petrov’s Caterham, the fastest Red Bull of Mark Webber ended the phase sixth and six tenths of a second off the pace. However, both the Australian and Sebastian Vettel – last year’s pole-sitter and winner – set their personal best times on the Hard compound, leaving plenty of question marks over their potential Option pace.
Because of the very limited dry running so far this weekend, the top teams are expected to use the first ten minutes of Q1 qualifying to continue work on car configurations.
Qualifying for the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix begins at 2pm local time (BST +1) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report