June 29th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Throughout the 2013 season, the Mercedes drivers have been quick on low fuel. That trend continued today at Silverstone where Nico Rosberg set the pace in the final free pracice session for this weekend's British Grand Prix, ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton. The Red Bull pair of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber followed, half a second off the pace.
Sergio Perez provided the drama of the session, when the left rear tyre of his McLaren exploded on the exit of Copse corner. Perez managed to keep control of the car and return to the pits, but there was significant damage to the rear floor of the McLaren. Bits of tyre were strewn across the track, which meant the session had to be stopped to allow the marshals to clean up the circuit.
The cause of Perez's tyre failure has yet to be revealed. It is possible that he had picked up a puncture which would have overheated the tyre and caused it to fail. If it was a simple failure of the tyre structure, then Pirelli are likely to come under fire yet again, after a string of failures earlier in the season raised questions about the quality of their manufacturing process.
A heavy tail-wind in the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex of corners saw many of the drivers struggling with oversteer and running wide in the right-hander before Chapel. Most of the drivers managed to carry on, but lost plenty of time sliding and then driving through the run-off area, but Sergio Perez's day went from bad to worse when he became the first driver to spin. Perez kept the car running and carried on.
The FP3 session showed quite a small difference in performance between the hard and medium compound tyres. Most drivers showed an improvement of only four to five tenths of a second when they went out on the medium compound rubber. That suggests that most of the top teams will be able to get through the first part of qualifying on the hard tyres and some, like Mercedes and Red Bull, might be able to reach Q3 without using the medium tyres at all. All serious contenders for pole position will, however, use the medium tyres in Q3.
Rosberg's session-topping lap time of 1:31.487 was the fastest time set thus far this weekend. Barring significant changes in the weather, it is likely that the pole position lap time this afternoon will be in the low to mid 1:30s.
Full results from FP3:
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.037||0.550||20|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:32.078||0.591||17|
|9||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.536||1.049||17|
|10||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:32.571||1.084||17|
|22||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:37.443||5.956||18|