Practice 3: Webber still on top as conditions worsen
Mark Webber showed he is in the kind of form to mark his new Red Bull contract with a strong Belgian Grand Prix showing by continuing to set the pace in final practice pace at Spa, as the wet conditions seen on Friday showed no signs of abating.
The dark clouds that had lingered over the famous circuit throughout the opening day had doused more rain onto the track overnight to ensure it was already going to be damp for the start of Saturday morning before a further cloud burst arrived to coincide with the start of the hour-long practice session.
This one was the most treacherous of the weekend so far and, as drivers completed some devilishly-slippery installation laps in the opening minutes, the 4.35-mile track soon became waterlogged and all-but ensured there was no running in the first half of the session.
Once the rain eased conditions did slowly start to improve and allowed drivers to complete some running, initially on the full wets before the intermediates were thrust into action for the final 15 minutes.
And it was birthday boy Webber, who set the pace in the brief window of dry running on Friday, who emerged on top in a time of 2m08.988s – a mighty 18s slower than his best lap from the opening day.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, who had earlier experienced the conditions at their worst during his installation lap, moved up to second late on in a time a mere 0.058s slower than the lead Red Bull.
Toro Rosso were a feature at the top of the times on both full wet, and intermediate tyres, and Jaime Alguersuari hung on to third place ahead of the other McLaren of Jenson Button, who was heard over the radio complaining of balance problems with his MP4-26.
World champion Sebastian Vettel completed a couple of laps more than Webber but was 1.4s second back in fifth place, with the other Toro Rosso of Sebastien Buemi sixth and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg seventh.
While Red Bull and McLaren limited their respective drivers’ running to under 10 laps in the tricky conditions Ferrari took an even more conservative approach which explained their unusual position at the foot of the order.
Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso did complete seven and five laps respectively but the former didn’t a representative time while his Spanish team-mate opted not to complete a full lap.
Like Toro Rosso, Force India showed a good turn of speed in the wet although Adrian Sutil slipped from the summit of the order to eighth ahead of the lead Renault of Bruno Senna, enjoying a strong session after a difficult Friday.
The Brazilian’s only noticeable slip came mid-way through the session when he ran straight through the chicane at Les Combes, before resuming to complete 14 laps.
Michael Schumacher rounded out the top 10 at the expense of Paul di Resta who had earlier pirouetted coming round Pouhon after straying onto the damp kerb.