As green lights at the end of the pit lane signalled the start of Free Practice 3 at the Albert Park circuit, the Australian weather justified the team’s decision to avoid running in the damp conditions seen during yesterday’s sessions.
Romain was one of the first drivers to emerge from his garage, heading out for an install lap on a set of the medium compound tyres. Kimi was not far behind, opting for the same tyres as the E20s were put through their standard pre-run procedures.
Kimi spent the majority of the session working on the setup of his E20, clocking 19 laps in the process – almost double the amount completed during both of Friday’s sessions combined.
Having returned to the base setup for his steering rack, the Finn reported being far more comfortable in the car. A combination of slower traffic and yellow flags deprived Kimi of the chance to put in a clean flying lap on the softer compound tyres, with his best time of 1:26.737 good enough for 12th place.
Romain continued to demonstrate his abilities in adapting to a new circuit, showing good pace whilst working through a range of setup changes, and finishing the session in 2nd place overall.
With seven minutes of running remaining, the Frenchman jumped from ninth position to the top of the leaderboard with a lap time of 1:25.758. He too was then hindered by on-track events, and so this would remain the quickest of his 21 attempts.
Romain was particularly satisfied with his day’s work so far, but refused to get carried away:
“I had a lot of fun out there. I’m happy with the car, and i felt for the first time that i had the confidence in my knowledge of the track to push a little harder. We’re pleased with the performance, but we won’t know for sure where we are until the end of qualifying. P2 may not be realistic, but we have a good chance of making it through to Q3”
The team rounded off the session with pit-stop simulations for both drivers. All eyes are now focused on preparations for this afternoon’s qualifying sessions – beginning with Qualifying 1 at 17:00 local time.
Pos-Driver---------------Team------------------Time--------------Laps 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.681s 18 2. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m25.758s + 0.077 21 3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m25.900s + 0.219 20 4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m25.906s + 0.225 17 5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m25.929s + 0.248 23 6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m26.078s + 0.397 14 7. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m26.211s + 0.530 12 8. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m26.470s + 0.789 17 9. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.632s + 0.951 20 10. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.723s + 1.042 17 11. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m26.733s + 1.052 15 12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m26.737s + 1.056 19 13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m26.755s + 1.074 21 14. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m27.029s + 1.348 23 15. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m27.119s + 1.438 20 16. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m27.323s + 1.642 19 17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m27.428s + 1.747 22 18. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.023s + 2.342 19 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m28.341s + 2.660 19 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m28.702s + 3.021 11 21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m30.728s + 5.047 13 22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m31.225s + 5.544 14 23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m33.114s + 7.433 12 24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m33.261s + 7.580 13