Hamilton goes fastest, isn’t arrested by police
McLaren has bookended the weekend’s practice session with Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheet for FP3 at Albert Park.
The Briton punched out a lap at 1minute 25.681seconds, pipping born-again rookie Romain Grosjean and his Lotus E20 by less than a tenth of a second.
Australian Mark Webber will enter qualifying with the third fastest time of the day, a little more than two-tenths off the pace of the leading McLaren.
Jenson Button found himself just six one-thousandths behind Webber’s RBR8, while Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher slotted in for the fifth and sixth fastest times of the session.
Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel was on track to post the session’s fastest time, but a spin into the gravel at turn six ended his session fifteen minutes early.
Mercedes impressed early in the session, with Rosberg and Schumacher sitting atop of the timing screen for a significant amount of time, with one of the Mercedes proving fastest in each of the sectors.
However, Schumacher – of FP2 fame – ended his session early after losing control entering turn nine and beaching his car in the gravel, preventing him from pushing his Mercedes further.
The performance from the Silver Arrows has caused many a raised eyebrow throughout the paddock, with rumours that the eleven other teams are preparing to submit an official complaint to the FIA after qualifying.
The controversy is focussed on a device similar to that of the f-duct seen on the 2010 McLaren, which is activated with the use of the DRS.
The FIA previously cleared the aerodynamic aid as legal as it was not being triggered by the driver, and thus does not contravene any regulations created to outlaw the f-duct.
Rival teams, however, are convinced that it should be declared illegal, and are prepared to ignite the season’s first technical row just two days into 2012.
Meanwhile, Ferrari languished towards the bottom of the times, with Fernando Alonso’s 1minute 27.323second post almost two seconds slow than the leader, while Felipe Massa was a further seven-tenths behind his team-mate.
Ferrari suffered a difficult pre-season as it struggled to come to grips with its radical new car design. While its FP3 result is unlikely to reflect its true place in the hierarchy this weekend, it will be interesting to see how much more performance the Scuderia can squeeze from its car this evening.
HRT finally managed to run both of its cars, but the results were far from inspiring. Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan both lapped in the 1minutes 33s, which places them well outside of the 107 per cent qualifying zone.
Using Hamilton’s time as a benchmark, the knockout zone is placed at around 1minute 31.6seconds, meaning both Marussia cars would fall just within the qualification time.
Both HRTs failed to qualify for last year’s Australian Grand Prix, and with the team failing to set a competitive time all weekend, compensation from the stewards is unlikely to be forthcoming, making an early exit all too likely for the struggling Spanish outfit.
But all of this is mere speculation! We’ll find out how things really are when qualifying for the 2012 Formula One Australian Grand Prix kicks off at 5PM AEDT.